Friday, August 19, 2011

Bitter Blueberry

When I started this blog I vowed to move through this system as fast as possible and share the experience as well as the methods used to do so. This mindset at the time was partially blowing hot air, trying to reach deep down to find that “can do” attitude within myself. Yet oddly enough, somehow, I managed to do exactly that. Three and a half months later I'm still homeless, but I have shot through a solid years worth of legwork and paperwork in that time and I have assembled a very powerful team of advocates, social workers, therapists, and case managers, all working in unison to get me every opportunity possible.

What I did not take into consideration is that by moving fast, I'm starting to leave people behind, and it's starting to grate on me. I advocate for others and share everything that I learn, but in the end a person makes their own path, and decides how they will prepare & execute. I can only help so much.
One of my closest friends is someone that I met at my last Shelter, as we both arrived there on the same day. He's a great guy, and an amazingly hard working guy, but he's also someone who has trouble doing for himself. I would regularly force him to take care of issues, but he just never really put together an exit strategy.
So when Aug 11th rolled around and we had both been there for 90 days, I was able to secure my bed for another 30 days, by fighting months for it, but he didn't. Instead he went out into the street, on a streak of bad rainy days, and he is now sitting in a hospital room. The saddest part being that I'm thrilled he's in the hospital, because there I know his stubbornness won't actually kill him.

Another extremely close friend, who did have an extension, and is next on list at another prestigeous shelter, had to leave after I was gone for 48hrs. He is an amazing guy, but he's also very eccentric, and he's simply the love or hate type of guy, there's nothing in the middle. However I think I kept him centered, as well “protected” to an extent, because many kept their feelings to themselves out of respect to me and my friendship with him.
I leave, and he turned the place upside down! LOL
It was apparently a very large commotion, involving a lot of people, Shelter management at the highest level, and even the police.
He's now someplace a couple of blocks from me, and for the most part safe.

I just can't help but feel a sense of guilt. While one friend is in the hospital, and another “on the run”, I'm sitting here right now in the back yard, all to myself, belly full from a great meal, able to write this in peace and quiet. We laughed this morning when I seen him that if it were a movie this morning we would cut from scene to scene, showing him escaping out the back way with his belongings, while cut to me and I woke up this morning to the smell of fresh brewed coffee, and the “house manager” making fresh blueberry pancakes for us. We laughed, and I commend him, because he has a resilience that I could never imagine, but it just wasn't that funny.

All I can say to people in this situation, or any similar; Learn when to advocate for yourself to speed things up, and know when something is important enough, and lacking room for error, that you need to use an advocate.
Even the “advocating” that I do. I am sitting people down and telling them where to go, when to go, and who to see, and most look at me with a blank stare.
Only really one person, is really paying attention, and that's this girl from the woman’s shelter. I've been running into her all week at all the places I told her to go, and she asks me question after question, and takes physical notes. SHE will get this right, and I applaud her for it. She's watching what is working, and learning to think outside the box, or as my guru puts it, playing this game on two different levels at once.
My team is fantastic, my new team assigned to me from the house, is already working in unison with my existing team, so everyone is same page and up to speed, working at making every opportunity available happen for me.
When I started this blog I was told Boston was the best place to be homeless, they were absolutely right, but please don't expect anything to just come to you. Fight for it, and if you've already fallen and at rock bottom.... well, you've survived, so don't be afraid to keep standing back up and climing.

I wish you all the tranquility and hope that I feel right now.


  1. John:

    My research is revealing a very high level of traumatic brain injury among chronically homeless people.

    A TBI often results in behavior that seems impulsive and self-destructive to observers.

    One of my advocacy initiatives centers around getting more highly skilled personnel out of executive offices and into the front lines of homelessness, namely, into the shelters and subsidized housing facilities themselves.

    All too often the most minimally skilled individuals are placed in positions wherein they are empowered to make inappropriate determinations about and decisions that concern the welfare of others who are disabled.

    The two instances that you have described are very much like what I have seen elsewhere.

    Putting chronically homeless people out of a shelter places them at a truly staggering risk of death. One of your guys is in the hospital already.

    There is a tendency in our culture to "blame the victim." However, I think we should be taking a long and hard look at the system instead.

    Please keep telling it like it is.

  2. My friend who went to the hospital is on his way tonight to a very good 28 day program to help him deal with several issues. I'm very happy for him, and proud of him. I know how hard that first step is. Took me 10 years.
    By the day he's done there he can at least get another 90 days at the old shelter, and hopefully make them count more than the first 90