I am in my comfort zone advocating for an individual or group whose rights or lives are being threatened and are in need of help and support. Not so when advocating and asking for help for me, as I’m about to do, I cringe and recoil a bit. It’s embarrassing. The fact it shouldn’t be doesn’t deflate the feeling. The fact I am unable to continue living in my current home with any degree of emotional safety (I’m not so sure about my physical safety either) compels me to deny embarrassment decision-making power and write a description of my circumstances.
I am early in my third year living in this North Adams, Massachusetts apartment, one of seven apartments in a large old house. Shortly after I moved in I learned there was a high tenant turnover. In didn’t take me long to learn why. The landlord is, in short, ruthlessly cruel, and appears to take pleasure in it. Two years ago, on a whim is about all anyone could figure at the time, he tried to force me to get rid of my assistance dog, a black lab mix named Charley, (a loving nod to Steinbeck’s Charley) by having his property manager fabricate a story claiming the dog bit him. When neighbors thoroughly debunked the story and attorneys for Massachusetts Fair Housing got involved, the landlord backed off.
Charley is an assistance dog. Helps me manage symptoms of a brain injury and PTSD resulting from being held up and shot in the head in 1984. The bullet remains lodged in the brain. The landlord was and is well aware of Charley’s role in my life.
Recently, his property manager converted a pop-up camper into a chicken coop and placed it in the tenants’ parking area. Soon it was filled with something in the neighborhood of 40 chickens. It did not take long for stench to fill the air. Complaints were filed North Adams authorities who made the landlord remove the chickens. He was not happy and, because of my history as an advocate, believed I was the one who’d filed the complaint (I wasn’t, although I was about to).
The day after the chickens were removed I received an email notifying me my rent would be increased, he wanted security, and, he soon asserted, Charley’s outdoor dog kennel was there temporarily as far as he was concerned. I receive a Section 8 rent subsidy and Section 8 authorities told him he can’t now demand security. It is worth noting that it was after he’d looked me up on the web and read about my advocacy efforts he volunteered to waive security. Lately he has been taping notes on the front door of the house warning tenants they are in danger of being raped and killed because there is a heroin problem in the area. In one note he identified the children living here who were in danger of being raped and killed. Can you imagine? These children and their mother come home and read this.
The landlord’s views of violence and weapons are unsettling as well. I once found a large caliber hollow-point bullet near the outdoor water faucet. I’m not a gun owner so I called local law enforcement and gave it to them and let the landlord know. He was furious. Told me next time I find any bullets I should give them to him. Then, shortly after the horrifying shootings in Newtown Connecticut in which 20 children were killed, I wrote a piece called, With love for Newton, CT. – children first. The landlord read the piece and sent me an email telling me knives are more dangerous than guns. Now, I’ve got some good friends who are gun owners. I doubt any of them would chose knife over gun when it came to protecting their family and country.
The toll it is taking
Thus far for me there has been an avalanche of anxiety attacks, flashbacks, emergency sessions with medical professionals, medication adjustments, a visit from a crisis team member, and so on. Much of the damage to my brain is in the frontal lobe, which is, in many respects, the emotional center of things. Thus the anxiety attacks and flashbacks can be and sometimes are fairly immobilizing. I don’t mind getting into the fray on the advocacy front, but my private life and my home must be safe havens.
So, after talking to therapists, doctors, and friends, a decision has been made. For the sake of my health I have to move, find a new home. Therein lies the challenge and the request for help.
The help needed
There are no monies for moving expenses, for first and last month’s security. Some have suggested a Kickstarter campaign. If I had the camera to record a statement and statements of others, I would likely do exactly that. It has been pointed out to me by more than one person that wherever I live is the headquarters of the Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition whose efforts, primarily in New York, are focused on the rights of people with disabilities, primarily people with brain injury disabilities. So the challenge is to raise the money for moving expenses ( estimated at $3,000 to $3,500 if I stay in this area) and find a place to live. If you can help with the cost, that would be wonderful. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the mailing address. If you know of places to live in this area, or nearby Vermont (Pownal, Bennington), please let me know. I have not ruled out moving out of the area.
To those, like me, in recovery
There is no doubt some who’ve read this are, like me, in recovery. I am sober 12 years this month. Here’s some good news. During this time of grueling upset the thought of using anything has never crossed my mind. Not even for split second. The one thing people and circumstances can never take from me is my sobriety. That I can keep safe. So can you. It’s possible. I promise.