After spending years sleeping in shelters, car seats or park benches, it’s hard – near impossible – for the homeless to feel at ease once a roof actually materializes over their heads. There’s always the agonizing thought that it could all end in a flash and they could be back to square one – the streets. That’s a thought I harbor constantly, rendering a good night’s sleep difficult to come by. There are the frequent thoughts that I could lose my disability, insurance or the building’s rent could suddenly double in this volatile market, or something could happen to get me kicked out, like an argument or fight with a neighbor. Every day, just a cursory glance at the news reveals the thousands upon thousands of homeless people in the world, my people, people I could unwittingly rejoin if I don’t play my cards right. I don’t want to be homeless again. This hand-wringing anxiety is driving me bananas. I can’t even stay in a shelter because the men complain I snore too loudly or my BiPap machine is keeping them up. I wish I could relax, find some solace. Maybe in the next life.
My interview with our local newspaper appeared today.
Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve made an entry on this site. I’m proud to say I’ve maintained this blog, albeit haphazardly, for five years or so. In all that time, I’ve left homelessness and stabilized my life around a sleepy Victorian town (Port Townsend). I have a doctor I see every three or four months, take my pills regularly, eat and drink like a champ, watch movies and TV, and every so often, go for an afternoon constitutional around the block. I wish I still had my car, but oh well. Things change.
I’ve been domiciled for about seven months now so I’m not complaining; I got too old for all this sleeping in the back of the car/wandering the streets nonsense anyway. I go to the local food bank relatively frequently, I’d say about 2-3 times a month. It really helps out since the majority of my SSDI goes to the rent.
So here we have a new near coming up. I have two TV’s – A 55″ Roku and an Android box hooked up via HDMI to the Roku which, in essence, gives me two TV’s. For the past few months I’ve been programming the Android box to where I now get about 10,000 channels. But guess what? Watching TV can still be a bore so I decided to get back into one of my earlier hobbies – writing and recording music. Since I won’t be working with a band, I figure it’d be easier and simpler to just record electronic dance music. So, to that end, I have an electronic keyboard and monitors coming here from Amazon in a few days. And I can’t wait!
Basically speaking, I live in a nursing home. At 56, I’m still the youngest bloke here. I’ve been thrilled to find out that quite a few of my neighbors have reduced hearing because of their advanced age; this bodes well for me and makes it possible, I hope, to build a home recording studio here. Anyway, that’s where I am now. Things aren’t too bad; my health is relatively okay except for my gout-weakened legs. I can’t complain, though. Bombs aren’t flying overhead and there’s no imminent threat of a Pacific tsunami to Port Townsend any time soon. What does 2019 have in store for us? Only time will tell. Stay tuned.
After nearly five years of homelessness, I might finally move into a one bedroom apartment in Port Townsend at a retirement complex reserved for those over 62 years old or disabled. This should happen in a month or so to the tune of $950/mo. That’s a bit expensive given I only receive around $1270/mo but the complex does provide tenants with breakfast and dinner as well as all utilities. In the end, it may work out.
I’ve been feeling suicidal lately and it’s why I haven’t written in my blog much. I just want to sleep all day, if I could. Very difficult when you’re homeless, though, especially now when it’s sunny all the time and finding a good, quiet shaded spot is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I’m sleep deprived, and that’s what’s driving my depression. I’m also losing weight, but that’s not a complaint. I want to be lighter and have more energy. If I can reverse my diabetes, good, even if it means me having to stop taking Abilify, the anti-psychotic I’m on that can contribute to both binge eating and problem gambling.
Speaking of problem gambling, I’ve lost quite a few bits of change at two casinos near here – The Point and 7 Cedars. Technically, they’re not near here. The Point is 35 miles away in Kingston and 7 Cedars is 25 miles in Blyn near Sequim. One night, I was so drunk I blacked out in a parking lot in Port Townsend and work up at the Indian Arts Center across the street from 7 Cedars. Talk about unsafe! I don’t remember driving the 25 miles to get there. Obviously, I did it in a complete haze. Very dangerous. I woke up vomiting, looked around, saw a giant Native American sign and thought, “What the hell? There is no place with a sign like this in Port Townsend.” That’s when I realized I wasn’t in PT anymore. Scary. The drink was whiskey, I think. Never again, though. I learned my lesson. I could’ve crashed or hit somebody.
Lastly, on a positive note, I spoke to the local hospital’s financial aid center and they agreed I was poor enough that they would cover my hospital expenses. Sweet. That’s one less worry off my mind, especially since I just spent $200 fixing my car (new battery, cables). Now, if I could only find a quiet place to get some sleep.
I’ve been reading in different places online that administrators, and other people in charge of eradicating homelessness, actually don’t do that because they’re making six-figure salaries, and housing the homeless would mean an end to their careers. If that’s true, what a shame. I hope some kind of outside authority investigates that, but I fear that this level of corruption could possibly lead even to the mayor’s office. Obviously, I can’t just walk into a homeless advocacy office and ask to see their numbers, their track record of placing the homeless in housing. It’s probably quite poor and they would never admit it’s just a scam. Making money off the city’s most vulnerable. Isn’t that a shame? Later on today I’ll write to some of those concerned and see what they say. In my heart I know what they’ll write will be nothing but smoke and mirrors. Maybe I won’t waste my time and just celebrate St. Patrick’s Day drinking green beer like everyone else.
Port Townsend is a boat building, Victorian, seaside arts community that is popular with the retirement set. I’ve been here for one month and so far I have mixed feelings about it. Some people I’ve run into are outright friendly; others give me the feeling that they’re undercover racists but are too ball-less to show it. I could be wrong; wouldn’t be the first time, but that gnawing feeling one gets when one is stared at by strangers in public emporiums and other places seems to invade my thoughts negatively every so often. I’m holding out hope that, being homeless, I’m just accidentally running into the dregs of society and things will take a turn for the positive once I’m domiciled.
As far as the city proper is concerned, it is a small town so I wasn’t expecting wall to wall excitement. There are a lot of parks around, enough so that I can find places to doze off, in my car or out. They have quite a few restaurants, too. The problem here is they’re all expensive. Average meals range in price from $10 to $14 as opposed to Seattle where I’m used to $7 to $12. The two libraries I’ve been to are par for the course. Architecture here is great if you’re into that sort of thing. Crime isn’t frequent or intense here. About four to six people end up in jail every day because of crimes like drug possession, misdemeanor assaults and driving violations. I did notice an apartment complex that, while not ghetto, did seem ghetto-ish from outside. It has a pretty name, too: Nor’West Village. My name is on their wait list but I hope they don’t pick me.
The beaches here are pristine, almost as if no human has ever set foot on them. That was a surprise given how people love to graffiti and litter at every opportunity. I’m still in the shelter and probably will be for the next month or two. I try to come in late and leave early as much as I can because some of the clients rub me the wrong way. There is no lack of negative personalities here, that’s for sure. Next week I’m driving down to Poulsbo to pick up my bi-pap machine; people complain a lot here about my snoring so the machine should help. So far, I’m surviving. Things could be better, things could be worse. I’ll give the city another a month or two. If things don’t start looking up I may reconsider shooting back to Seattle. We’ll see.
I’ve been staying in the shelter in Port Townsend for about a week. Since it’s closed during the day, I use the free time to set up my mailing address, put in several housing applications, find quiet streets to doze off in my car when I’m tired, find places to hang out during the day (The Boiler Room, the Public Library, Fort Worden State Park) and set up medical care at Jefferson Healthcare. I learned something new this week – I have sleep apnea. The residents at the shelter alerted me to my loud snoring and irregular sleeping patterns and encouraged me to have a pulmonologist check it out. It seems I might have to start sleeping with a CPAP machine due to a lower jaw that’s shorter than normal, a wider than normal neck, and narrow throat passageways which makes breathing during sleep difficult. It seems like if it’s not one thing, it’s another. So far, Port Townsend is agreeing with me. I like it here even though I’ve only been here for nine days. Like the sound outside of town says, this is an arts community. I should blend in like a flake in a snowstorm. And that would suit me just fine.
News media outlets cover the plight of the homeless in their tabloids every day, presenting to the world all kinds of statistics related to the downtrodden and un-domiciled. And, you know, when you’re in the midst and thick of it as I am, you can get pretty cynical in regards to how the government is actually working to end homelessness. Here in Seattle, the attempt is a joke. To wit:
In any jurisdiction, you call 211 for info. Their job is to steer you towards assistance. Right now, I won’t go into how ineffective they are, but after calling them up a few times, it’s pretty obvious the volunteers are clueless.
I was recently looking into CEA – Coordinated Entry for All – a system that’s supposedly in place to get people off the streets. I went so see them Thursday & Friday but was told I had to make an appointment through 211. So I called 211. They said I should try the CEA offices in the Central District because the Northgate Office I was looking into works by appointment only. Or, 211 suggests, I can always take a trip to the Redmond Public Library on Monday between 1 to 3 PM, but like the other CEA officers, I am not guaranteed to be seen because they operate on a first come first served basis. The 211 operator told me to call him back next Wednesday to see if any interview slots opened up. Now, I don’t mind sleeping in my car, but suppose i didn’t have it. Where am I to sleep for the next frigid weeks? Shelters are filled up around town and public parks kick you out from 11pm to 4am – perfect sleeping time.
The Homeless Problem is getting no better in Seattle. Maybe I should try homelessness somewhere else, like Port Townsend or Port Angeles. Now, that’s an idea.
No one has to tell me I’m pretty cynical. I already know that. It’s how my extreme black and white thinking works and it’s something I can’t turn off, no matter how hard I’ve tried. That said, I often “weaken” to play the naive fool. Every so often, I try to give society the benefit of the doubt and seek out care for my homelessness and mental issues. In the end, all I did was illustrate just how incompetent, frustrating, useless, parasitical, insulting, ass-backwards, corrupt, inconsequential and self-serving “carers” were. It’s just a money game. The solution for the homeless mentally ill? Shoot them in the face or lock them away in jail. To wit:
- I contact psychologists for help and diagnosis. They say things like, “Sorry, I’m not taking any more clients” or “Sorry, you don’t have the right insurance” or “Sorry, cash only.”
- I contact housing alliances. They say things like, “Sorry, you need to be referred from Western State Hospital” or “Sorry, you need to have an active addiction” or “Sorry, your income is way too low for our low cost housing” or “Sorry, the intake coordinator is out. Just leave your name and number and he’ll get back to you as soon as he can” or “Sorry, no vacancies” or “Sorry, you have to put your name on the waiting list which, by the way, is 9 years long” or “Sorry, you have to be 62 years old” or “Sorry, you have to be a veteran” or “Sorry, you have to be a client at Such and Such Clinic, but when you contact Such and Such Clinic, they say sorry, we’re not taking any more clients till the fall.”
- I contact hospitals for tests for my mental condition so I can help from the state’s Developmental Disability Association, but they say, “Sorry, your insurance won’t pay for the exam” or “Sorry, our waiting period is about a year due to staff cuts or whatever” or “Sorry, we have no more beds” or “Sorry, you need a referral from one of our allied psychiatrists, and naturally, you then find out their allied psychiatrists aren’t taking on any new clients for a year or don’t take your insurance anyway.”
And they wonder why people give up and just go live on the street or commit crimes just to get in out of the cold. It’s sad, really, especially in a city as prosperous as Seattle. My goodness. The world-renowned Seattle Seahawks live here. The richest corporations (Boeing, Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft) in the world and their CEO’s live here. We have football and basketball stadiums, concert halls, skyscrapers, the world famous University of Washington, the fastest growing tech sector in the nation and some of the most expensive real estate in the land. And we have the extreme poor and mentally ill living under bridges and in cars. Shame. On. Seattle.
Yay! This is something I’d been meaning to do for years but was often sidelined by depression. ‘Commoner the Vagabond’ is a novel about the trials and tribulations of a homeless man with Asperger’s Syndrome who gets into frequent trouble with the law. His vindication comes in when a TV show about his exploits become popular and he becomes the darling of the downtrodden in his hometown of Seattle.
No, the book isn’t about me, but as they say, write what you know, right? Right now it’s available on Kindle, but hopefully, there’ll be a paperback edition in the future.
In other news, I started creating the chapters for my new book which I plan to call “Homelessness 101: A Clown’s Guide To Survival”. I was going to write it with my homeless friend Travis but he just returned home to his family in the Midwest. I guess I’ll go this one alone. It’ll be more a book of humor than an actual survival guide. That means I’d like illustrations galore. I can attempt that but it’d be better if a professional artist did it as I’m only so-so in that department. I should have “101” finished in about 2-3 months so I’ll start looking for an illustrator pretty soon.