You have to find a little joy in something simple, if you can. Right now, I’m very happy about the nice pens I ordered from a website that I won’t name because I hate what it stands for. Just when I’m crestfallen over the death of my computer — because I adore typing these blog entries from the comfort of my bed, whenever I want — I’m able to rediscover the buttery smooth feeling of a nice pen in a blank composition book.
So, I wrote this, and now I’ll type it on the public computer that I’m fortunate to have access to, while I listen to the new Peter Gabriel record on a loop, being more impressed every time I hear it.
There are people in my direct orbit who are mad that I’ve been able to secure supportive housing. It’s very rare for someone to complete this program and end up in a stable living situation; they are usually just transferred to another similar program, and I honestly don’t know where that path leads. I knew it wasn’t the path I wanted to continue on.
Am I very lucky? Of course, I am. One of the things I love about New York is someone asking, “Hey, how are you?” and the response being “Blessed and highly favored.” Am I blessed and highly favored? You bet your ass I am.
That isn’t the whole picture, though. There are things that I had to do to make it possible. It was a matter of self-advocacy, a skill I had to learn over the course of my various trials and tribulations as a homeless, mentally ill drug addict in New York City, of all places to be in a situation like that.
I initially got my 2010e (the supportive housing eligibility document) sometime in the summer; I don’t know exactly when, but it feels like an eternity ago. I decided to actually read it that day, which is a bit out of character for me. I usually just put paperwork in my shoulder bag and forget about it, but I read my 2010e. I realized that it painted an incredibly inaccurate picture of both my situation and my supportive housing needs. It was either the result of laziness or straight-up negligence on the part of the onsite psychiatrist here. The picture it painted left out a lifetime of mental health struggles and classified me as a population that is very much placed at the back of the proverbial line for housing.
I filed a grievance against the doctor, and while I’m here, I’ll paste the contents of the email to illustrate how little I am fucking around:
“Good afternoon, I’ve never considered the process of filing any grievances here, but I can’t ignore what I see as I’m attempting to situate myself in supportive housing. If you have any questions you can reach me by email.
My name is Evan Penkethman, and I am a client in the reintegration phase of the residential treatment facility Education Alliance.
I have a completed 2010 e Supportive Housing document, so I decided to sit down and read it. There was something that I found very interesting about it: I am classified as a Category F, and only a Category F. That means that the only thing technically qualifying me for Supportive Housing is my history of substance abuse. It does not mention the fact that I’ve been living with a thoroughly documented severe mental illness diagnosis for more than half of my life. I’ve been hospitalized for this condition more times than I even know, and have even undergone electroconvulsive therapy for it, along with medication.
As I understand it, the person responsible for compiling the psychosocial evaluation that qualified me for my 2010 document is Dr. Ghad, the on-site psychiatrist at Educational Alliance. Luckily, one of the housing counselors here urged me to get an independent psychosocial evaluation at Metropolitan Hospital, which is both more accurate and representative of my current situation. However, it is not included in the document with HRA that I’m using to try to stabilize my living situation.
Having some prior experience with supportive housing in the city, it’s my understanding that a more complete picture of my situation would avail more opportunities for me to get placed in supportive housing. I am working with the housing counselors to get my paperwork amended.
The results of Dr. Ghad’s assessment are inaccurate and not sufficient for
my personal needs as I am trying to put a sustainable life together in recovery. I aim to keep the focus on myself here, but as I understand it, this kind of thing is common with multiple other clients at the CRW Pride site. This is either grossly negligent, unprofessional, lazy, or a combination of the three. There are a number of other seriously questionable things that the doctor does here, but I am going to keep my focus on the scope of the task at hand.
I’ve had to learn to advocate for myself to get by, and I don’t intend to stop. After all, this is my life, and all of the outcomes are mine to live with. I just want to shed light on what happened because it feels like it’s in the way of services that I qualify for and could really use to get to where I would like to be. Not to mention the effect it has on so many of my peers here who have similar goals for themselves. Everyone else I’ve worked with here is doing a great job. My only issue is with the doctor. My counselor, Ashley, has really taken command in assisting my transition and is very helpful, as is everyone in the housing department here and every clinical counselor I’ve worked with during my stay. This is a great program outside of the problems with dr. Ghad and I am so glad I made the choice to come here last summer.
So, I banged a few heads, politely, and I went off the reservation to get a complete and accurate psychosocial evaluation at Metropolitan Hospital, up on 96th street. It took a long time, but I eventually got a complete and accurate 2010e, making me eligible for a whole lot more services and moving me up a whole lot in that proverbial housing line I mentioned before.
Now I’m looking at it on paper, and you know what? I’m pretty proud of what I did and how I did it. Of course, the whole thing took what feels like forever, so I’m also happy with the patience I was able to have while it seemed like everything was going nowhere for months on end.
These are things that I would have never been able to do when I was younger. These are skills I had to learn (often the hard way).
All in all, the whole thing feels like I was watching someone else. I don’t really know how I did it.
You’ll have to bear with me for the rare occasion of me giving myself a little credit. I highly doubt that everyone could manage to go from sleeping on a pile of cardboard on the sidewalk in Flatbush Junction, Brooklyn, to being housed with very meager financial resources in New York City. NYC is no joke, and I’m still stunned that it didn’t swallow me alive like the countless casualties that line the sidewalks everywhere.
So, I’m giving myself a pat on the back. I’m fairly confident that I deserve it.
People can be as mad as they want about it. What they should do is take note of how I moved through the situation, as it might help them navigate this very bloated public supportive housing situation in the future. Get as mad as you want, bro; you are more than welcome to come by and have a really good coffee and play Super Nintendo for a bit, as long as you can be cool.
I haven’t the faintest idea how I did it. One little step at a time, I suppose. Again, I felt like a spectator, watching someone else do everything.
I guess, technically, it was me… it just doesn’t feel like it. The cold reality is that no one else has to live inside my outcomes but me; therefore, if I don’t show up for myself, how could I wait for someone else to do it?
I would be greatly amiss if I took all the credit, though. There were people in my corner that I firmly believe the universe placed there in its infinite benevolence. You can go back through all my writing and see the recurring themes of literal angels placed in my path the whole time.
So, I’m celebrating whichever version of me did all of that; I suspect something else was driving. I am a cynic at heart, but it’s not at all logical to think that there aren’t other forces at play here, because I’m blessed and highly favored, after all.
If any of these little blog posts are doing anything for you, might i suggest a little donation to the Ev initiative. i just think you’ll feel good, and it’s a good deed that you can put in the karma bank. if you’re not into that, it would be just as nice to help share this stuff, thank you.