Denial of Service
A week ago, I lived here. Wait, I'm not allowed to say that. I slept here. I ate here. I showered here. I stored my stuff here. But I was never allowed to call it home. That point was made by the staff of the MSC South homeless shelter at every opportunity. From the security guards who harassed me above and beyond the call of duty every time I entered the building, to the front desk clerks who refused to let me leave the building after curfew, to the kitchen staff who handed me an empty bun when I requested a vegetarian meal, to the laundry room attendants who made me sign up hours in advance to have any hope of washing my clothes, to the monitors who watched movies and talked loudly on their cell phones all night as I tried to sleep, the point was made explicitly clear: "You are not welcome!" And today, I'm not allowed.
I was "denied services" (i.e. kicked out) last Wednesday night. Just as I was about to go to sleep, a staff member casually walked up to my bed and told me that I had to leave… immediately. I'm new to being homeless. I still have this idea in my head that I have rights. I asked her why. She didn't know. She was just doing her job, but she assured me that I still had to leave. The fact that I had eaten, showered, and slept here for four months didn't matter. At that instant, I was a trespasser. They eventually handed me paperwork which stated their reasons and gave me instructions on how I could appeal the decision, but I still had to leave immediately.
Now, I stand outside MSC South. Neatly painted on the wall in front of me is a cliché charity logo along with the words: "The Saint Vincent de Paul Society." It looks down on me, godlike. The logo is like one of those cheesy patterns that I would cut out of colored construction paper when I was in elementary school. It's an abstraction of two people holding hands forming a heart shape in the middle. I feel sick. I have a cold that won't go away, yet I'm highly alert. I'm nervous.
Today is my "denial of service" hearing wherein I am given the opportunity to confess my sins and beg forgiveness of the Catholic faith-based non-profit that manages the City-owned homeless shelter with City funds. I'm waiting for my Shelter Client Advocate who will represent me at the hearing. Finally, I see her. First impression is unmistakable. She is young, cheerful and idealistic. Lindsay is a breath of fresh air compared to most bureau rats in the Shelter System. I immediately explain the details of what happened and she listens with the empathy of a perfect social worker. She seems optimistic about my case although a little naïve. My guess is that she's relatively new at this.
At the appointed time, Lindsay and I are led into a small room and given more detailed paperwork on the denial of service. There are two charges against me. Each charge carries a three-month ban from the shelter if upheld. When I was kicked out, I was not given any details beyond the technical definitions of the rules that I had allegedly broken, but now, they present two written statements: one by Lessy Benedith, the Program Director of MSC South, the other by Wayne Garnett, the Operations Manager of MSC South. Lindsay and I are given some privacy to read these statements and prepare a defense. Lindsay reads Wayne's hand written statement out loud:
"In the community mtg, client Paul Weston started getting loud w/the Director Lessy Benedict Mr. Weston cont'd to disrupt the mtg w/loud outburst calling the Director 'liars,' 'you fucking liars.' The mtg ended. Mr. Weston, cont'd to get loud w/loud outburst and verbal abuse towards Ms. Benedith, w/statements like, You lie, take some of your salary and put to the Dinner Meals. Mr. Weston ran up to Lessy, and his body motions at her was as though he was going to harm her. Lessy then stepped back startled. Mr. Weston told Lessy you got to Friday to respond or else and threw the paper at her. I Wayne Garnett, facility Manager stepped in front of Lessy to prevent Mr. Weston from doing anything else towards Lessy or doing any harm to her. His behavior has progressively gotten more violent towards Lessy. The Police was called, and he refused to leave after being denied service." [sic]
Lessy Benedith's printed statement is even better:
"On April 22, 2009, I was conducting a Community Meeting for clients at Multi-Service Center South where I was verbally assaulted and threatened physically by client Paul Weston. Mr. Weston was given a couple of opportunities to speak in this meeting. In his first approach he had addressed concerns relating to the operation of the facility as well as the forum of the meeting. He was reading his concerns from a laptop. Towards the end of the meeting, Mr. Weston was given an opportunity to speak. I informed Mr. Weston that we were out of time and other people wanted to speak. He interrupted by saying that he did not care and did not allow others to speak. He began yelling and verbally assaulting me saying 'you fucking liar. I don't care. You fucking lied to us.' I advised Mr. Weston that his behavior was not acceptable and that if he continued he would not be allowed at the meeting. He continued yelling 'are you fucking threatening me…you fucking liar.' I ended the meeting. He continued yelling and eventually got up from his chair, walked towards me with a laptop in his hand and motioned as if he was going to hurt me. I stepped back and away from him. My staff intervened to protect and got in front of me to block him from coming any closer. He continued his threats saying 'you better fucking have my money by Friday or else…' I left the area." [sic]
Lindsay breathes out sharply and exclaims what I already know.
"They are so full of shit!"
At least someone believes me. Lindsay is well justified in jumping to this conclusion. At face value, these allegations are comical. But then again, I am a crazy homeless person, and they are compassionate service providers, so they must be telling the truth, and I must be lying. At least, that is how most people will look at it. I feel sick again. I explain what really happened, and after fifteen minutes, we're ready for the hearing. I guess.
Chris Cody, the Executive Director of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, enters the room along with Lessy Benedith and Wayne Garnett. They sit down at the table, which is small enough to play cards on. The deck is stacked in their favor, but I have one ace up my sleeve. I recorded the audio of the entire community meeting from my laptop just as I am doing right now. It's my only hope to expose them, and it gives me some confidence. Chris Cody starts the game off by asking if I have a statement.
I do not. I have questions. I had prepared several lawyerly questions that I wanted to ask Wayne, hoping to extract as much detail from his imagination as possible. When someone is full of shit, it's best just to let them talk. Chris Cody seems a little concerned about my questions and comments almost to himself.
"I've never done this before…"
Neither have I. Like I said, I'm new to this game. I'm not even from San Francisco. I came here to milk the system. That's not true, but there's no point in arguing with someone who's running for Governor. I'm from Utah. Yes, I'm Mormon, or was Mormon. I was raised Mormon. And I was a really good Mormon until I started asking questions. The answers never came from the Mormon hierarchy, but History, Archaeology, Egyptology, Linguistics, and Genetics answered my questions with brutal honesty. Eventually, I reached the comically obvious yet terrifying epiphany that Joseph Smith was also full of shit.
I came to San Francisco to be a part of what I naïvely believed to be the most secularly progressive city in the nation. And I came to work. I got a job as a front desk clerk and had just settled into it when I was unexpectedly laid off. I desperately looked for another job and found nothing. I even gave up on my ambition to live here and tried to get my old job back in Utah, but the recession had burned that bridge. I was stuck and running out of money fast. So, for the first time in my life, I applied for welfare. I learned about the Care Not Cash program at the General Assistance office and they promised me a "single room occupancy" (SRO) in exchange for over 80% of my welfare check. But until an SRO became available, they gave me a temporary shelter reservation at MSC South. The deal wasn't optional and questions were discouraged. The promised SRO never came, and my "temporary" stay at MSC South lasted four months. I deserve a refund.
Becoming homeless was like falling into a well and then slowly being devoured by the parasites that prey on such accidents. I continued to look for work, but my efforts were futile. Very few employers will take a chance on a homeless person, especially in an employers' market. The bureau rats and non-profit parasites showed me no mercy. They feast on such poverty. The last thing that these vampires would want is for me to "transition into independent living." It would be a conflict against their own interest. The more clients they have, the more money they receive. This is especially true for the private non-profits that operate outside of civic accountability.
San Francisco has not lived up to its reputation. It's far too religious and not nearly as progressive as I had hoped. Even the most religiously conservative Mormons in Utah would have serious issues with the government intercepting welfare checks and then giving money to non-profits controlled by the Mormon church to provide care for welfare recipients instead of cash. Yet, Care Not Cash is overwhelmingly popular. It's been a reality check for me. The supporters of Gavin Newsom are not secular, progressive, liberal, or even human.
It's ironic. I came here to escape Jesus Christ, Inc. and merely ended up becoming its slave under a different subsidiary. I was treated like a prisoner at MSC South. I was even photographed and fingerprinted. They should have just sent me to jail. The differences are not that significant, and I've even heard that the food was better in prison. After four months at MSC South, my mind can't decide if a homeless shelter is really just a minimum security prison, or if prison is really just a maximum security shelter. I guess there is one significant difference. In prison, a nun will not wake me up and invite me to scripture study. But at least I know Saint Vincent de Paul's weakness. If there is one thing that Jesus Christ, Inc. hates more than anything else, it's questions. And I have some for their Operations Manager.
But before I can go there, Lindsay apologetically interrupts.
"So there was some odd things about this as far as the hearing being set up."
I'm not surprised. Lindsay brings up the fact that they scheduled a hearing without informing me, a minor oversight by their standards. She also objects to Wayne's refusal to fax over the incident reports and explains the proper administrative procedures. Lessy Benedith has heard enough from Lindsay and sharply interrupts her.
"Ok, Lindsay, so the hearing was scheduled for Tuesday. The gentleman was not able to attend the hearing and it was rescheduled for today. You have in your hands the documentation pertaining to the denial that occurred last Wednesday."
Take Nurse Ratched from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," give her a thick central american accent, and you have Lessy Benedith. Far from being a compassionate service provider, she is more like a sociopath who enjoys watching people suffer. Her cold, condescending demeanor lowers the temperature in the room and clearly intimidates Lindsay who backs down and defensively explains that she was just wondering why she was not given more information. Lessy responds with one of her idiosyncrasies that I am unfortunately familiar with.
"I understand what you’re saying, and what I’m saying also (it really means 'fuck you') is that we have not held any hearing without you properly reading all the documentation pertaining to this environment. So, I’m asking to proceed, ok."
Why shouldn't we? I mean we do have the documentation wherein I am accused of assaulting her. And we have been given fifteen minutes to read it over and prepare our defense. What complaints could we possibly have?
Chris Cody quickly moves on to the next order of business.
"So you have some questions?"
I thought you'd never ask. I eagerly start questioning Wayne.
"I would like you to please read the explanation for this denial of service."
"Ongoing disruptive behavior, including uncontrolled behavior and the police called."
To maintain objectivity, I describe myself in the third person.
"Where did you observe Paul Weston’s disruptive and uncontrollable behavior?"
"During the whole meeting. Once you was given your opportunity to speak in the meeting, you kept interrupting. And, at one point, you started calling Lessy a liar, 'you fucking liar, you liar.' We had to stop the meeting to inform him he had plenty of opportunities to speak. The meeting ended. He continued with 'you fucking liar, you fucking liar.' 'Lessy, you lied to me.'"
The last sentence is somewhat out of place. It's dangerously close to reality. Lying doesn't come as naturally to Wayne as it does to Lessy. It makes him uncomfortable. All the more reason to let him keep talking. But before I can move on to the next question, Chris Cody strategically interrupts with the tone of a Catholic School principal questioning a misbehaving boy.
"Do you deny that?"
Yes, I do deny that. I never disrupted the community meeting with loud outbursts. That award would go to Wayne. And I never used any profanity, although I probably should have. And I did not call Lessy any names, but I did state as a matter of fact that Lessy lied although not nearly as repetitiously as they implied. My accusation was brief and technically accurate. Lessy did lie.
According to Saint Vincent de Paul's contract with the city, these community meetings were supposed to "focus on participants' concerns about the shelter operation and participants' recommendations for procedural and/or policy changes." In practice, they were more like a meeting of the Peoples Temple, fiercely authoritarian and didactic.
The clients of homeless shelters are desperate. They are at the end of their rope with little to no options. A director of a homeless shelter can do a lot for them. Besides basic food and shelter, she can give them preferential treatment. She can even give them job opportunities. Or, she could have them thrown out in the street at any time and for any reason. That's power. And it's enough power to turn some people into puppets. When you reduce accountability and oversight by outsourcing the management of a homeless shelter to a faith-based non-profit and then allow them to ignore their contractual obligations with impunity, you lay the groundwork for a cult.
At every community meeting, Lessy would bring her cult following with her. She would brag about how she 'fights for us,' and they would stand up and express their undying gratitude and fanatical loyalty to MSC South and it's director. Very few clients, around a dozen or so, attended these so called community meetings. Most knew that it was pointless to make recommendations. But there were always a few, mostly new clients such as myself, who would naïvely make the attempt. The cult was always there to protect Lessy from such rudeness and would quickly rise to the defense of their director by insulting any clients who dared to make "recommendations for procedural and/or policy changes."
Frustrated with this venue, I tried a different route. I wrote a petition. It highlighted some of the popular complaints such as the prison-like atmosphere, insufficient food and inadequate resources. Over a hundred clients signed the petition and I turned it into the Shelter Monitoring Committee. Lessy inevitably found out about it and released her wrath in the following community meeting. She insisted that the City only gives her fifty cents per person per meal. This was typical of Lessy. At every community meeting, Lessy would blame the City for inadequate resources. And then suggest implicitly, if not explicitly, that we should attend the next important civic meeting and ask the City to give MSC South more money. But this time, she increased the intimidation factor and yelled at us, demanding to know where we could buy a meal in this city for fifty cents. Finally, her cult played along and admitted that there was no such place except here at MSC South. What could we say? Fifty cents was indeed a paltry amount.
But I was skeptical of this claim and decided to investigate it. After given a long runaround from Human Services Agency, I finally obtained a copy of the contract and budget summary thanks to the Sunshine Ordinance. I found out that Lessy's claim was extremely misleading. It was the Saint Vincent de Paul Society who allocated this expenditure, not the City. And they could have easily allocated more.
I clarified Lessy's misleading claim at the next community meeting, the one that preceded my eviction. And as an example of how money could have been allocated differently, I explained that the Saint Vincent de Paul Society could have easily taken money from Lessy's $75,000.00 salary and reallocated it to 'client food and services,' and that there would have been no objections from the City.
I explain all of this to Chris Cody who becomes visibly irritated at the mere mention of the words, 'funding,' 'money,' and 'salary' and quickly moves on with his interrogation of me.
"Ok, putting aside that, because I don’t think that it’s accurate, but you’re entitled to your opinion. Did you call her a liar in public, in a public area?"
I don't fall for it.
"I didn’t use the word liar. I said, 'You lied.'"
I resume my line of questioning and Wayne reads the other denial of service.
"Threatening violence against staff members or clients."
"Did Paul Weston threaten a client or staff member?"
"Yes, you did."
Wayne gets up from the table and begins to impersonate me.
"When you got up out of your chair, you came over to the director."
Wayne runs over to a corner of the room.
"Your computer in your hand like this, you went over to her like that."
He yells at an imaginary person.
"'You better answer this! Respond to this by Friday, or else!'"
Wayne throws the piece of paper at the imaginary person.
Bravo! I try to keep from laughing as Chris Cody starts another somber interrogation.
"Do you deny that, Paul?"
Yes, I do deny that, Chris. Thanks to the audio recording, I have a detailed understanding of what really happened during the community meeting. The community meeting wasn't going well for Lessy. Many clients were complaining about insufficient food, incompetent security and maltreatment from the staff. And this time, her cult following had been reduced to an insignificant and timid minority. So she tried to end the meeting prematurely. This arbitrarily imposed time limit was completely unprecedented, so I decided to address my last concern anyway as Lessy was walking out of the room. It was at this time that I exposed how she lied in the previous community meeting. She stopped when I mentioned her salary.
My comments infuriated Wayne who went off on a loud tirade which, thanks to the audio recording, I can quote word for word.
"There’s three hundred and thirty nine other individuals that live here! And none of them are trying to change no policy because if you want to change policy, start within!"
"Within?" I asked.
"Start within, in getting up out of here! Stop trying to change this!"
Maybe Wayne was right. Perhaps I should look within and think about what led me here in the first place. I'm completely drug free, but I still had something to confess at AA meetings. I'm a non-conformist. I could have avoided MSC South. I could have conformed to the life plan laid out for me by my Mormon parents and focused entirely on Business School. By now, I could be the wealthy founder of the latest multi-level marketing scheme. Instead, I chose to squander my student loans on a curriculum that made sense only to me and left me with only customer service job opportunities and a complete lack of faith. Wayne wasn't the first person who tried to break me, but he certainly had the most leverage. Reality is beginning to set in on my rebellious lifestyle. The path of a non-conformist is a very dangerous one. Some may become the next Rosa Parks, but most just wind up in jail… or a homeless shelter.
But instead of humbling myself, I ignored Wayne's lecture and paid attention to the voice inside my head, the one that keeps telling me that homeless people have rights. So far, this condition has gone untreated. And at the community meeting, the voice was too powerful to ignore. So I acted on it. I even pushed the envelope and spoke directly to Lessy.
"You lied, Lessy. You lied. Don’t lie to us again."
Wayne promised to write me up for such heresy. I ignored him and proceeded with my next order of business. It was at this moment that the alleged 'attack of the nerd' took place. I can't help but smile a little as I explain what really happened to Chris Cody. I did not run up to Lessy with my laptop. I calmly walked up to her with only a piece of paper in my hand. The "dangerous" laptop remained where I was sitting. The piece of paper was a claim detailing items that were stolen from me when someone, most likely staff, cut the latch on my footlocker and broke into it. I professionally read from the claim wherein I expected compensation by a certain date. The only "threat" was the implication of legal action. Lessy refused to accept the claim, so I calmly placed it on the floor and walked away. Wayne then picked up the piece of paper and asserted that it was threatening. They must be terrified of small claims court.
As soon as I finish explaining these details, Lessy responds immediately.
"So, I disagree with you Mr. Weston. You were not calm in any way. This, right here, is calm, proper. And I can deal with this. This is exactly how I deal with you and every other client every single day."
I start to feel sick again, but she finally gets to the point.
"You were in rage!"
Just as I am wondering what she means by 'rage,' she gives me her definition.
"That means that you had changed colors and you were shaking as you were doing this."
It's funny. She didn't mention anything about me throwing the piece of paper at her. Isn't that an act of rage? She goes on to elaborate on what 'rage' is.
"When somebody is shaking, and is abusive towards another person, that is called rage."
What about the assault with a deadly laptop that she wrote about in her statement? Wouldn't that be a better example of rage? Chris Cody is not satisfied with her testimony and looks a little worried. He asks Lessy for more details.
"When you say abusive, what do you mean? How was he abusive?"
What Lessy does not say is more significant. Again, she does not say that I tried to attack her with my laptop as she did in her written statement. She also does not say that I threw the piece of paper at her as Wayne stated in his description. Her immediate response to Chris Cody's question is an accidental moment of truth, the real reason that I was denied services.
"He insults me in front of the clients."
Yes, disrespect for authority will not be tolerated at MSC South, and to that charge, I must plead guilty. But that is not what I have been charged with.
Instead of describing my actions, Lessy expresses her feelings.
"I was afraid!"
She then relegates me to a particularly disreputable socioeconomic class.
"And I have taken a whole lot from the homeless population, but you, sir, and your behavior was frightening, ok, and not acceptable."
Poor Lessy! How have 'we' been picking on you? Her blatant lies followed by her self pity and classism is enough to make me change colors and shake. She was not, in any way, afraid of me! After the alleged assault, Wayne asked Lessy to leave, apparently trying to imply that she was in danger. But Lessy did not leave. Instead, she casually walked over to where I was sitting, stood over me, and condescendingly informed me that my behavior was inappropriate and would not be tolerated.
Lindsay regains some courage and insists that the denial of service was inconsistent. According to her understanding, an immediate denial of service should be immediate, not over an hour after the alleged incidents. Lessy and Wayne evade this issue, and I resume my line of questioning.
"I would like you to read from appendix A under the description of services item IV.c.3 of the grant agreement for MSC South between the city of San Francisco and the Saint Vincent de Paul Society."
I have apparently touched a sensitive nerve.
Chris Cody is also irritated, but his response is a little more calculated.
"You know, I respect your right to do anything you want to do at city hall…"
I feel sick again, but he quickly makes his point.
"It’s beyond the scope of this hearing."
Beyond the scope of this hearing? They have accused me of disrupting the community meeting. So, there must be a protocol established for these community meetings for me to disrupt. And, indeed, there is such a protocol defined in their grant agreement. I can think of very few things more relevant to this hearing than Appendix A, item IV.c.3 of their contract. In addition to defining what the focus of the community meeting should be, it also requires them to "distribute client satisfaction survey forms for participants to complete and return." They have never done this in all of the community meetings that I have attended. I know why. Their contract further defines an 'outcome objective' of 60% client satisfaction. So, it seems hypocritical of them to make this allegation against me when their behavior during the community meeting was considerably more "disruptive" than mine.
But Chris Cody stubbornly insists that the contract is irrelevant and is growing impatient with me.
"I don’t want to sit here and listen to that."
For the record, I explicitly ask if I can read from the contract, but Chris Cody's word is final.
"No. You can do it at the arbitration."
Arbitration? We only go to arbitration if the charges against me are upheld in this hearing and I appeal the decision. It appears that Chris Cody has already made up his mind. There's really no point in continuing, but I resume my line of questioning anyway. Wayne, however, becomes suspicious of my questions and refuses to participate any further. Chris Cody uses this as an opportunity to give me a reality check.
"You know, honestly, Paul, be real here. We’re here because these folks say you did something. And you have come in here and denied doing all these things. Do you have other witnesses that would support your recollection of how you think the events happened?"
I get it, Chris. It's not what you know. It's what you can prove. I contacted several clients who were at the community meeting, but no one was willing testify. They don't want to loose their beds the way I did.
Chris Cody goes on to lecture me.
"There's no excuse for profanity..."
Sure there is. The fact that MSC South spent less than 4% of it's budget on food: that's an excuse for profanity. The fact that Chris Cody was paid an annual salary of $122,147.00: that is a legitimate excuse for profanity. And when Lessy Benedith suggested during the community meeting that homeless people should not bring any of their belongings into the homeless shelter that they can't afford to loose: that was a very legitimate excuse for profanity. Nevertheless, I resisted the temptation.
Lindsay doesn't think that the hearing has been very fair and tries to support me.
"He’s being retaliated against for like, for having a right to ask about the community meeting."
This only further agitates Chris Cody.
"That doesn’t warrant his behavior. Do you get that? So, it’s irrelevant. If an arbitrator says, 'You’re right. Saint Vincent de Paul should be spending more money on laundry and less on staff or overtime or a union…' or me! 'And that’s relevant.' If an arbitrator says, 'That’s really relevant,' and it would justify your behavior, let someone say that. I’m not going to say that here today because this is specific to the charges."
Chris Cody is exhibiting the symptoms of 'rage.' His face has changed colors and he is starting to shake.
"I don’t want an explanation!"
He then reduces the hearing to the simplest tautology.
"If you did it, you did it!"
You can't argue with that, but Lindsay tries.
"That’s what he’s saying. He didn’t. And the specific charges don’t really make sense."
She explains how I was given a reservation at another shelter which is inconsistent with an immediate denial due to violent behavior. In such a case, the shelter is not required to give me a reservation.
Chris Cody is furious.
"Yeah, because they did that as a favor to him!"
"As a favor to him and we do it all the time."
Of course! That is the policy of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. If you assault one of their staff, they will not press charges and even make sure that you have a place to sleep. After all, that is what Jesus would do.
Chris Cody has heard enough out of both of us.
"Look! You know, I grew up in the sixties. You people are children! You’re grandchildren!"
I won't argue with the fact that he is old enough to be my grandfather, but I would dispute his assertion that he grew up. I can't help but laugh a little as he throws a temper tantrum.
"I know paranoia and conspiracy is part of my life! I know retaliation and unjustified establishment money is part of my life! But it has nothing to do with this! Get it through your head!"
I try to speak, but Chris Cody interrupts.
"Did you engage in this behavior, or not?"
I don't fall for it.
"I am trying to elaborate and make a defense about the ongoing disruptive behavior charge that was against me."
I skip to the end of my line of questioning.
"My defense is that this community meeting was not held in order that it was not compliant with the contract. And at that time that the director arbitrarily imposed an unprecedented time limit, I had just as much right to speak as she did. That was my defense."
"Fair enough, your defense is noted that you felt the meeting was held at an inappropriate time."
I give up. Lindsay, however, fights on. She clarifies that the police were called pursuant to my request for a police report. Lessy interrupts with her closing argument.
"I am afraid of this man! Put that on record."
Chris Cody assures Lessy that it's on his record and reminds me of my email correspondence with him after I was denied services wherein I suggested that he resign. He insists that this be duly noted. Why not? It's perfectly relevant to the hearing.
Chris Cody starts to fill out the paperwork.
"So, I’m ruling that you were, you know, in favor of the shelter."
Only Lindsay is surprised.
"So, you’re saying that you believe that his behavior was threatening, that he did all of this?"
Chris Cody defends his decision.
"Yes. The preponderance of the evidence here is that these people are telling the truth and you’re not."
Preponderance is a new word for me. I have a good guess, but I'm not entirely sure what it means. One thing I am sure of, however, is that there is little doubt in Chris Cody's mind that I am telling the truth and that Lessy and Wayne are lying, yet his signature is unwavering.
They exit the room to give us some privacy. Lindsay is speechless. She is sincerely shocked by what just happened. Apparently, she has never defended a client who wrote a petition before. I can tell that she really believes in the integrity of the system that she is a part of, but at the receiving end of its whip, I have a more enlightened perspective. I know that if the City really wanted me to be represented well, they would have hired a lawyer, not a social worker. I also know that the Shelter System will find a way to get rid of Lindsay if she continues to take her job seriously. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before they break her and she becomes one of them. I feel sick again.
Our awkward moment of silence is broken by a knock on the door. Lessy re-enters the room and fearlessly approaches me.
"Would you like an arbitration?"
"Yes, I would."
"Ok. So, I will call you with the date."
Apparently, we do not move fast enough for Lessy and she informs us that we have worn out our welcome.
"We’re done. That’s it." (i.e. get the fuck out!)
On the way out, I encounter a fellow traveler, a veteran of the war on homelessness. He slept directly across from me and was one of the first MSC South clients to sign my petition. He stops me to ask about the hearing.
"How'd it go?"
Only one word is necessary.
written by Paul Weston