Thursday, June 9, 2016

My First Night at the Interfaith Sanctuary, a Horror Story, Update

Over a long period of time I waited for the abuse and illogical management at the Interfaith Sanctuary, a homeless shelter to get better. Things changed some but the attitude, abuse, lack of supervision and other problems in Boise Idaho have not so it seems that I have no choice but to write publicly about what has gone on.

The first day I came to the Interfaith Sanctuary I had been at the day shelter, Corpus Christi all day with my suitcase and a plastic bin. The room I was renting was not safe for me, it was an insane situation with a con artist and children being abused. I became homeless to report the child abuse. I was upset already that day, traumatized already.

I think someone may have helped me carry the plastic bin, but I don’t remember as it has been about seven months ago and I was so traumatized by that evening I could not even write about it until now and I write all the time including about personal experiences. I don’t remember all the details now of course. I have complex PTSD, rather severe after a decade of trauma, layer upon layer. So just thinking about this traumatized me. Homeless shelters traumatize people intentionally. They take people who were already traumatized and put them in a system of trauma. They hurt people who can bear no more pain and then wonder why they are on drugs and alcohol or sleeping in a tent. The system damages the health of the homeless who die at half the age of the sheltered.

Many of the homeless people are mentally ill, disabled or elderly. Welcome to America. The solution is housing, but there is no affordable housing except for a rare individual getting really lucky and those with social disabilities are not rented to. Those social services agencies, the city and the state act as if there is housing and recently the director of the shelter told me there is housing all over. No there is not housing all over for low income people and the homeless, that is very false.  

I was told at the day shelter they would want to put my clothes in the drier and would ask me to put on some clothes they had and take a shower. I knew that was about bed bugs, no problem. What I did not know is they treated people horribly and had no respect at all for the personal property of the homeless. They did not even care about my health intentionally leaving me outside in the freezing cold for what I think was three hours.

They wanted my things brought to the laundry room so I brought them in and was yelled at for being in the laundry room. I was saying to him they told me to bring you this stuff, no one said I was not to go in the laundry room. I was trying to do what they said, but as I know very well now they are so inconsistent you can’t ever figure out the right thing to do. The place is run by two co-serial bullies, so this makes sense. 

I stood outside the door to the laundry room freezing for about an hour waiting to give the laundry room dude my stuff for the drier. Some guy came up to do the same thing, waited a while and got angry pounding on the door. The guy in the laundry room angrily swung the door open almost slamming me with it and thinking it was me banging, no it was not. I was hypothermic, stressed and due to ME/cfs which often has POTS, Postural Tachycardia Syndrome associated with it was very ill at this point from standing. People with ME/cfs have low blood volume, we are orthostatic, so dizzy and our hearts pound due to pooling of blood in an already volume depleted person from standing. I got so I could not even think between being hypothermic and with the POTS secondary to lack of blood flow to my brain. I was also having an ME/cfs flare with a fever. It was a horror story and they did this to people all the time. It made me very ill for a long time and recovery was not possible due to lack of sleep, the stress of staying there at night, the bullying and the exposure to massive pathogens so I had viruses all winter. I have no idea how I survived.   

They never gave me the clothes to change into, never had me change into their clothing to put the clothes I had on or my jacket in the drier because they don’t follow their own rules. Their rules are fluid, may only be stated, but not implemented and often only apply to some people and not others. I did not understand that then, but I do now. They wanted to put my backpack in the drier and by then I was so sick and hypothermic I could barely move and certainly was unable to form a thought. In ME/cfs it takes a large part of the brain than normal to form a thought, then we have mitochondrial dysfunction and blood flow issues so our brains end up starving and don’t function in the kind of situation I was in. I told them this and not one damn was given. 

They wanted me to put my things which included electronics in a clear garbage bag and just leave them on the ground, then go inside to do intake paperwork. After telling them this was crazy I refused while shivering from hypothermia. There was a severe lack of empathy and a mob of good old boys. All I got was bullying and right wing talking points to try and shame me or make me feel small. They especially love the blaming for things out of the homeless person’s control which is of course a part of the non-profit-industrial-complex neo-liberal thinking secondary to the gutting of the welfare system under the Clinton administration. I wasn’t grateful for being abused and having my property in danger, I know how odd of me, but it's one of their talking points. If only they had known me they could have saved their breath. I am very well educated and well read, along with having good self esteem because I spent my life in the service of others, have risked my life to try and change things for the better, am an activist, have been a whistleblower several times which comes with much personal cost. Bullshit does nothing but piss me off. 

Since I refused to leave my possessions on the ground in a clear garbage bag for people to steal, imagine that, they decided to give me my plastic bins. SOP is to leave one’s property lying on the ground while doing chores in the morning to be stolen, it sounds insane and it is but that is what they do. I already had one plastic bin with me so they gave me one of theirs to make two. Mine had yarn, pots and pans, along with other things in it. The suitcase had personal property, some clothing and the files for three civil cases I desperately needed to get filed. I had left Alaska due to harassment so the work could get done, lawsuits and other civil cases could be filed, my book could get written and I could get back to gardening, making quilts, cooking, writing, activism, my art and being able to manage my ME/cfs was put in what they called long term storage then. It was a block building with doors in front of four sections, the long term storage for “guests” was the last one. I thought that was safer than the plastic bins, but that was very wrong. These people were not to be trusted as they have absolutely no respect for their homeless clients. More on that story later. 

Those storage bins are filthy and so are the storage areas they keep them in. My name was supposed to be put on them but I did not know this, it was supposed to be on my suitcase too but it was not. I had no way of knowing their procedures at all and was very ill that night before I got there. It was all I could do to even stay conscious. Then they tortured me with psychological abuse and the freezing cold. A few days later when finding out my bins should be labeled with my name I asked to have this done and the guy was abusive. I asked about the suitcase and was growled at. I thought oh well at least it is locked up, it is safe. It was not. 

The intake interviewer was a very abusive man, he is still there and still a serial bully. I did not write about what happened or what was said that night as I was so traumatized and shocked that people would treat the homeless this way even after having been in a very abusive shelter in Alaska. I now know from extensive research this is common practice in many states. What a country. 

Finally I got to take a shower which helped the hypothermia but was not good for POTS. I did not get a bunk that night, but instead got one of three spots on the floor for women. They do not have shelter mats for the floors, but instead use those interlocking mats people put down to protect their floors. When asked about mats claims of lack of resources are made. I never believe a word. They are not very wide so the blankets are on the floor and there is not enough room to keep your body from touching the floor. Those with arthritis etc. are miserable because the mats are on a cement floor. 

ME/cfs is many things, very complex, one problem is immune system dysfunction. There are many people with immune system problems in the shelters at high risk of infections and being on the floor is high risk. There are only three spots for women and one of them was right at the front of the desk where people walked by kicking the woman there, walking on their bedding and spilling coffee on them. That is how they treat people. More on only three floor spots for women later.  

That night and many other nights I slept on the floor shivering from the hypothermia from earlier in the evening.  

Update: I forgot the part where while I was outside hypothermic and getting colder a woman, I do not remember who, but it had to be another homeless person because there was not one female on staff then told me to go put my hands in the exhaust from the driers. I did because I could not move my hands and barely could feel them at that point. The current shelter director was the operations manager at that time and the bullying was off the scales. He had a co-bully then on staff who just could not understand why I was angry and upset that night.  



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