Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Heaping Helping of Abuse

Yesterday I attended a Single Adults Committee meeting. The Single Adults Committee, or SAC, is a population subcommittee of a subcommittee of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County, or CEHKC, which began working on King County's Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in 2004, and therefore if that title meant what it promised, homelessness in King County will be non-existent in 2014.

In fact, there has never been any intention to end homelessness in ten years. That is not the plan. That is just the name of the plan. The plan is something else. I'll get to that later. Right now I want to bitch about something that happened yesterday.

As I say, I attended the committee. I'm an actual official member of the committee. I received an actual invitation to be an actual member of the committee. The committee has between 22 and 25 members. About 20 of them are service providers or social and health services functionaries for the city or the county, including the county hospital, Harborview. The remaining 2 to 5 members who show up each month are us Consumers.

That's what they call those of us who are or have been homeless as single adults. We are called Consumers, as in "consumer of services targeting homelessness."

Let me explain how offensive that is. The token 2 to 5 people selected to appear to represent the single adult homeless community while having their numbers deliberately kept low so they can't have any real power are DEFINED SOLELY IN TERMS OF THEIR RELATIONSHIPS TO THE REAL POWER IN THE ROOM.

Well, fuck us. Fuck us to hell.

They make nice about it, they really do. They pay a couple of us a stipend of $20 every third visit. If it's one of the meetings where only one other Consumer shows up I get the $20. If two other Consumers show up I usually get bumped because they only alloted stipends for two Consumers on the committee, which means that 2 or 3 of us are bonus tokens. I appreciate the thought behind that, seriously.

But I'm still digressing. Yesterday one of the service providers connected with DESC (the people who house me in addition to running the Downtown Emergency Service Center shelter) was talking about how hard it can be to keep chronically homeless people in transitional and permanent housing because they fail due to issues. She was mainly speaking in connection with women I think. Someone said what issues, please list some, and she listed some and one of the issues was "the boyfriend."

Now, I was already in a snippy mood, because only just minutes earlier the same woman had talked about the need for programs where women can live in group situations permanently, and I was remembering how just four years ago we had Noel House providing just that, and promising just that, and the promise was broken. Because the people in charge decided they knew better than the residents what was best for them.

So I thought I might not have heard right, because my mind had been clouded with a snippy fog. So I asked. She said that yes, she said boyfriends. She said that, you have to understand, she was using the term "boyfriends" lightly.

It's probably not a good idea to use the clause "you have to understand" when talking to a mathematician. I am trained to push back hard when I am told what I have to understand. I don't have to understand. You have to explain yourself. I'll understand when you've done your job.

But I ignored that, because I have also been trained in civility. I said that I could see an opportunity here for having more success keeping people in housing. You could arrange the living experience in a way that accommodated the boyfriends.

She said that wouldn't be a good idea. The boyfriends are often abusers and violent and often they are drug suppliers. And I started to ask what accommodations do you make when you don't know that domestic violence or drug supply is an issue, when I was told that it is always considered a bad idea to maintain a relationship when someone is trying to get off drugs.

So here's the deal. I was mistaken about the whole program. I thought the goal was to get people in housing, and that the question was, how do we do that effectively. Instead I find out that the goal is to get them off drugs at all costs, even if they don't want off them.

I find out that the goal of the Ten Year Plan has been taken over by the Missionaries, and that the homeless are the Indians. This woman and her 20 cohorts around the table are the Missionaries who decided that tribal culture was corrupting Native children, who had to be isolated and raised apart from their parents.

They're also the Missionaries who told us that Noel House had to be made temporary for the good of its Consumers. It doesn't matter that now the Missionaries are saying that group living is a good thing, the point is, they're the ones defining the good.

She's not saying that the woman who goes back to her "boyfriend" whatever he is, doesn't want to go back to him. No, she wants to but the Missionary has decided for her that she shouldn't.

Over a hundred years after Native American children were stolen from their own people Missionaries are trying to pry drugs and alcohol from them and not doing penance for being the ones that drove them to those alternatives in the first place.


You break up the only social ties that people have, call their chosen relationships sick and abusive, and you replace them with a sick, abusive, insulting, demeaning, "Consumer" relationship. Go ahead do it, that's what you've been doing. Why not? You're the vanguard, you're the elite YOU KNOW WHAT'S BEST FOR EVERYBODY.

OK, admittedly, you don't know what the new symptoms will be. The chief symptoms of meddling in the Native American's culture were widespread alcoholism and their own subsequent particularly high rate of homelessness. You don't know what the new symptoms will be of the new artificial Consumer relationships you are creating among all the current homeless people you are ripping apart to house. But you KNOW , because you are so fucking superior, that the new symptoms will be something you can cure when they materialize and you get around to them. In the meantime, you can live with yourselves, because you're so fantastic.

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