I like to believe that I’m an incredibly tolerant individual, especially when I’m dealing with a person that don’t know me or my story … the past few days completely destroyed my belief in myself!
On Friday, July 13, my daughter and I officially became homeless. We went to a shelter to buy us some time for our potential home to be completed and us time to get some money toward our security deposit and first months rent.
Years ago, I suffered with PTSD, and recently the stress of everything has caused a relapse. I am aware of the physical deterioration of my health, the psychological stuff, I have learned to cope … or so I thought.
The shelter where we stayed required that we attend their nightly chapel sessions, which I was okay with as I was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt and this would fill one void. However, our entire stay there was full of chaos and conflict, even during church services. My daughter and I did a great job coping with the constant stress, but last night I began to feel myself losing sight of my coping skills.
I asked a staff member if I could get Caitlin to someone that I could trust so that first thing in the morning I could see my doctor. I was told that leaving would not be tolerated and I must stay until after Monday morning classes.
During my Monday morning I was handed a list of churches that I should probably considering attending. I explained that I have a church family that I trust and love and I would not be interested in changing churches. Staff asked for the name of the church and wrote it down, then informed me that I should still consider their list of churches as they are the ones that donate to the shelter’s cause.
Although their services are Christian based I did not feel that it was appropriate for them to dictate where I worship.
Then, my daughter and I missed dinner because we weren’t back at 5PM, and we missed our 6PM curfew because my daughter had a doctor’s appointment. I had explained this at the classes and was told that I need to schedule all future appointments around the shelters schedule. In a week I will be returning to work, but they prefer that I miss work to get my daughter to the doctor so that it doesn’t interfere with their schedule.
When we returned at 6:30 tonight I gave staff a note showing what time we got to the doctor’s office, what time we left and we were allowed 30 minutes to return! As we were being patted down, scanned with a metal detector and our belongings searched the staff member asked what book my daughter had. It happened to be Harry Potter.
She was told she could not have that book while at the shelter. She immediately defended the fact that she has been reading that since we arrived. It didn’t matter, it would have to be locked up with all of the cellphones, medicines, cigarettes and lighters.
My daughter and I have always coped with stress by reading fictional books. This is our mini mental vacation. I wasn’t surprised when my daughter tossed the book on the desk and ran from the room, but my response did surprise me.
“This agency needs to have some empathy for those in this situation! She is 15, she is going through the worst time in her life. She copes by reading FICTION, she knows that it is FICTION, she is taking a mental vacation and watching a boy coming from nothing and turning his FICTIONAL world on its ear, making that boy a success! If you can’t respect a person’s prized coping skill then you have no business working in this field!”
It may seem stupid, my daughter and I left the shelter over a freaking book! That is not why we left, it was because that was just another symbol of our dignity stripped from us because I’m too poor to pay rent in a community that was clearly too rich for my blood.