Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Homeless, Veterans, and The Shade Tree

Things have gone from bad to worse at The Shade Tree since I last posted on this subject. After having meetings with four different people in the wake of my articles, I was assured that changes would be made. I am not sure exactly what changes they meant, but we have certainly seen the situation deteriorate.
Did I mention the man who was admitted to the second floor late last week? Yes, you read that right. I saw him at dinner, asked some people on the second floor about it, and then went straight to Erika (readers remember her from last week). The man was standing just outside the advocate's office in the dining room, and I pointed at him saying, “Is that supposed to be a woman?” Erika looked me straight in the eye and replied, “Yes.” I said, “You mean the one with the goatee and the biceps?” She looked me straight in the eye and replied again, “Yes.” Just how stupid does she think we are?! How hard would it be for an abuser to walk in here, posing (not very well) as a woman, and blow his wife away (along with a few residents who are in the wrong place at the wrong time)? It is one thing if advocates think their job is a joke, but they are compromising security at The Shade Tree.
On the third floor (where I am), the family bathroom has been broken for over two weeks now. Rumor has it maintenance is waiting for tiles to come in, while other rumors say there is some main pipe that is broken. Regardless, 102 women and children are now sharing six toilets, six sinks (when two of them are not clogged), and three showers. Those without children are now limited to showering between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and midnight, but almost nightly the families are in the bathroom well after nine o'clock. Tensions are even higher than what I described last week. With women having to trip over strollers just to use the basic bathroom facility, mothers who insist on turning the bathroom into a beauty salon, children who scream like they are being killed when their mothers try to take them to the toilet and/or the shower, and advocates (remember these are the “floor monitors”) who allow the children to stay up past their eight o'clock bedtimes watching television, readers can imagine how easily tempers are flaring.
Additionally, attempts to find housing are a complete waste of time. The Army veteran I wrote about and I both have exit dates next week. Our time at The Shade Tree is up. Yet, we have no place to go. The Veteran's Administration no longer works with The Shade Tree because of all of its problems, and the VA has problems of its own. They claim to be out of money and the only housing available through them is a place called WestCare, which is a drug rehabilitation facility (transitional housing is full, and contrary to what our case manager told us VASH/HUD does not take people who do not have income, which the Army veteran does not). The Army veteran was told the VA would try to find her a bed at WestCare, but for obvious reasons she is not interested. As for me, I found a place last week at Veteran's Village. The catch is I need to put down a deposit, first month's rent, and then wait for a room to come available. I do not have enough money to put everything down and then wait indefinitely for availability, and they will not allow me to put down a partial payment to hold the next opening. So, I went to Clark County Social Services to see about getting a $400 voucher through their program so that I could combine it with what I have to get a room reserved. I waited for four hours just to be told they are not taking appointments until next month; they are backlogged. So, I am looking at buying a $20 sleeping bag and finding a new street corner on which to sleep.
Let me tell readers a little more about my Army friend. If you recall, she is sixty-years-old, her ID is expired, she has obtained a job but is unable to start until she gets current identification. She went to a place called “Hero School”, which is led by a former homeless man who now tries to help the homeless get on their feet. They paid to get her most recent marriage license, but when she went to the DMV they wanted all three of her marriage licenses. In addition, Hero School misplaced her original birth certificate, so now she needs that as well. When she went back, the secretary (or whatever her title is) informed her that “at some point you have to help yourself”. With what money?! These things are not free, and frankly I have never been in another state that has so many hoops through which a woman must jump in order to obtain a state ID. Never. And I have been all over the country. Nevada DMV wants to be able to trace your last name from birth to the current day, regardless of whether or not your social security card is in your current name. It is much easier just to obtain a passport (but not less expensive)!
But the two of us are not the only ones experiencing problems. I do not know what The Shade Tree is doing with their donations, but one thing they are not providing is food. Yes, they make a stab at it; cookies and/or muffins for breakfast, a child-sized sloppy joe for dinner. One day we had a half a scoop of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup and a salad too small even for a child as our lunch. Yet, if readers look up The Shade Tree on a charity rating site online, they will find that 93% of their funds go to the residents. I do not know where the referenced residents live, but it certainly is not The Shade Tree. Some very creative accounting is going on.
I fail to see how a shelter receiving federal funds to feed children can send those children to school lacking in sleep and hyped up on sugar-filled breakfasts. Meanwhile, there was one brief bright spot in all of this. Her name is Angela, and she is the head of case management. She is extremely down-to-earth, and last week she assured me I would not be paying $90, I would not be moving to the second floor, and that she had no problem extending my stay for several days if need be. However, I found out yesterday she has resigned and is leaving at the end of this month. Meanwhile, one of the residents filed a complaint yesterday because one of the women threatened to beat up another woman. The latter woman had confronted the first, who was watching movies on her laptop after lights-out (the light was keeping people awake). When the resident turned in the complaint to Erika, she immediately called a meeting of all the advocates and at least one of the case managers, where they spent two hours in a huddle laughing and carrying on. Meanwhile, one of the residents had a medical emergency and was forced to call 911 because there was no advocate on the floor (she is now in the hospital); I found a child screaming in the bathroom like his mother was trying to kill him (imagine walking in to find a woman and a boy in a stall with him shrieking "Mommy, NOOOOOO! STOOOOOOOOOOP! MOMMY, PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!"); several children were in the day room throwing full water bottles around like they were footballs; one boy rammed the laundry cart into me (he just started pushing it around and could not see that I was there); in other words, we had total mayhem.
And then, this morning the advocate failed to wake everyone at 5:45 (there are women who work, and with school now in session some have to get their children ready for the bus). When they woke up late a couple of the moms went looking for the advocate, whom they found...asleep.
Frankly, if I were a federal investigator, I would pose as an abused woman, get myself admitted to this place, and record all of this before shutting The Shade Tree down permanently.
The bottom line is, there is no help for people in this shelter. The Shade Tree does just enough to scrape by; other than that, we are all on our own. And veterans cannot even get help from the very agency that exists in order to help them. So, next week I will be blogging from a yet-to-be-determined street corner (well, the nearest fast-food place with WiFi, anyway), and who knows what is going to happen to the Army veteran.
ATTENTION ALL HOMELESS WOMEN IN LAS VEGAS: If you are pinning your hopes on The Shade Tree, you have no hope.