Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Letter to the Owner of the Apartments Where I Used to Live in Idaho:

Dear Diane,

I thought of you today... isn't that nice of me?  Do you want to know what made me think of you?  Of course you do!  In fact, I've thought of you several times lately.

A few days ago, I fell in the hallway of my apartment building.  The maintenance man saw and RAN over to help me up.  He told me to report it to the office in case I would need medical care!  Can you imagine?  He was VERY nice, and very concerned.  He walked down the rest of the hall with me, just to make sure I was okay.  He didn't have to do that. When anyone of us fell in the parking lot at Tetonview, the response was "Oh". 

Today, as I was walking and talking to the janitor as we were going in the same direction, he ran up ahead of me to push the elevator button for me, before turning to go in a different direction for himself.  I remember thinking how thoughtful that was. 

That's what got me to thinking about how different things are here between the management here, and the management there with Syringa.  Well, specifically, with Rhonda. 

The number one difference is the sense of community and just plain niceness of the residents and the staff.  I have yet to hear anyone complaining about the landlady, or maintenance problems not being taken care of.  Most the of disabilities here are of the mental variety, and to see the staff help them, according to their different "needs" is heart-warming.  They jump ahead, anticipating what each person is going to need.  They get to know every one's quirks, and do not treat them/us as second class citizens.  They stick up for them when they see anyone being upset or bothered by some one's behavior, in a kind way, without giving away too much information.  It really is wonderful to watch.  The security man will get up from his desk 40 times in 2 hours, to open the entrance door to our building, even tho all of us have a key/card that opens the door automatically.  He doesn't have to do that, but he does, because he recognizes how difficult it is for some of us to fish around for the key/card in our purses or pockets.  Yes, I know, you probably don't understand how hard that can be at times. I was not impressed with your empathy level when we met.  But thank god you cared about the lack of decorative bark in the shrubbery bed!

You would think that a public housing facility in the 3rd most densely populated city in the USA would have "issues", to put it politely.  Filth, maintenance orders ignored, rudeness, keeping your distance from the "crazy people", theft, etc.  After all, we're "welfare" people, taking advantage of the system, and "using" our disabilities to get what we want.  Hmmm... why does that sound so familiar?  Oh yes, it was in your letter to me when I asked for a "Reasonable Accommodation" of a $10.00 wading pool to help keep myself cool when outside.  I also asked to be able to let my Service Animal off-leash in order to throw the tennis ball for her exercise, as I am not able to walk fast or far enough for her exercise needs.  You denied these requests, as "it wouldn't be fair to the other residents", and because "I shouldn't USE my disability to get what I want".  Also, because "reasonable accommodations are for people, not dogs". 

Scuse me while I try to control this sudden seizure-like spasm going thru my body.  Do you realize that you broke the law?  Oh yes, indeed.  I have 2 YEARS to file a complaint against your decision not to allow my requests... not the 10 days you stated in your letter.  We've still got a year to go.  My lawyer nearly giggled out loud when we received it.  You and your lawyer don't know the law, lady.  Oh dear, my rudeness is coming out again. 

Syringa, during the era of Rhonda as management, (known among the residents as dumber than a paper bag) and Donna, the Red-Headed Compulsive Liar... tends to bring out my rudeness - so sorry.

For two years, I lived with the threat of losing 4 of my 5 animals, while being harassed by the Red-Headed Liar, and a landlady who took the word of the Red-Headed Liar.  Instead of recognizing that the Red-Headed Liar was mentally ill and her stories needed to be heard in one ear and out the other, this woman was allowed to make my life miserable, and I couldn't really fight back, under the threat of losing my animals - which were allowed by the previous landlady.  The RHLiar called the cops on me numerous times, to the point that the cops told me not to worry about it - after the third time, they recognized that the RHLiar had issues.  She called the Health Department, convinced I must be an animal hoarder.  They couldn't even smell the cat box, when they came to inspect - my place was fine.  She turned me in to the City, because I had 3 dogs.  I had to go in front of the city counsel in order to get a kennel license.  I had to get the permission of 7of my closet neighbors.  Instead, I got 37 signatures out of 40, and 2 of those 40 were out of town.  She lied about my dogs being off-leash, me not picking up their poops, she complained when one of my dogs touched her elbow (when she called the dog to her!)  Everyone in the building knew better,  because they KNEW me, and saw me being responsible for my animals.  She lied so much that suddenly, after 5 years of living there with NO problems, I received 7 lease violations within 6 months.  One of those weren't even delivered to me, having been written up in order to cover her own ass about something she failed to address earlier, and put in my file.  Does that really make any sense to you?  In the letter denying my Reasonable Accommodation, you said I had a "history" of lease violations.  If "history" means half a year of trouble after 5 years of no trouble... then yes, I had a "history".  Huh.  

Oh, a side-note.  There was recently a memo sent out to us (here in California) that we were to become a non-smoking building because it's the LAW down here.  However, even tho it's the LAW, the people who currently smoke will be "Grandfathered" in, but from now on, smokers will not be allowed to rent.  When this happened at Tetonview, several of our friends and neighbors were forced to move out because they smoked and couldn't/wouldn't quit.  However, several residents didn't move, and they continued to smoke without getting lease violations.  Worse, new residents who smoked continued to move into our "non-smoking residence.  Our friends moved  had moved out for no reason!  Surely, you were familiar with the term "Grandfathered in"?  Those of us with more than one animal, and the smokers should have been grandfathered in, rather than threatened with the loss of our animals.  Instead we were forced to get ridiculous notes from our doctors, making up reasons why our animals were necessary.  Odd how Rhonda kept losing mine, until finally the third time I had it mailed by certified/signature required, don't ya think? 

To paraphrase all the many documents online, "A "reasonable accommodation" is a change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling."  

The key word there is "equal opportunity", oops there's two words.  The "fairness" to other residents is not to be considered when considering a reason accommodation.  If that were the case, then everyone one of us with a cane, walker or wheelchair should have been able to park in the disabled parking area.  Oh wait, that was a problem for Syringa too.  It only took 2 years for our wheelchair resident to get a designated parking spot, didn't it?

Being FAIR to the other residents has NOTHING to do with MY disability.  Hell, is it FAIR that I have MS, and you don't?  Don't talk to me about fairness... it's not fair that I NEED to ask (beg?) for special help.  Life isn't fair, and you can believe that we, the elderly, disabled, and financially poor understand that more than anyone.  . 

You told me to hire someone to walk my dog, and that I could jump in my shower in order to cool off if it was too warm outside.  The question you should have asked yourself was "Do "normal" people have to hire someone to walk their dog in order to exercise them?  No, they have a CHOICE - it's not that they CAN'T walk their dog.  Do "normal" people have to jump in the shower every 15 minutes when the weather is too warm for them?  Can you imagine doing that?   Take working in the garden, for instance.  Would you want to run in the house every 15 minutes, undress, jump in the shower, and re-dress, go back outside, and get hot again, and do it all over?  It might seem crazy that having a wading pool outside would make such a difference in my comfort level in order to enjoy being outdoors - but that's the nature of my particular disability.  Who are you to say?  Do you want to walk in MY shoes for awhile?   Every resident in that building would have been able to tell you what happens to me when I get over-heated.  .

Just for your educational sake... let me tell you what happened here in this apartment facility when I asked for a wading pool.  It must be said that I haven't needed one yet, because it's cooler here.  Can you imagine MOVING in order to be in a better environment for my health?  Or is that "USING" my disability to move to one of the most expensive cities in the USA - on $770.00 a month "to get what I want"?  See, you made a critical mistake by using the word "want", rather then the word "need".  Simple, really.

When I asked the landlady here, she said "absolutely no problem".  I asked if she said that because she was nice, or because she knew it was the law.  She laughed and said "both".

As for having my dog off-leash in some of the parks of San Francisco so she can exercise by chasing a tennis ball, all I have to do is take proof of being ON disability, and a doctor's note, to the local dog control unit, and they have to give me a reasonable accommodation and allow me to have my dog off leash while I am throwing a tennis ball.  Isn't that AMAZING?  As far as it being fair to the other dog owners in the park?  All I have to do is show them Annie's special tag, and if they still have a problem with it?  Give them the phone number that's on the dog tag.  None of the dog people that I know seem to resent it - after all, it's just simple human kindness to notice how I stumble and fall when walking too fast, or when over-heated, or how I wobble even when standing still. I notice them passing on the information to new people who walk up and notice my dog is not on a leash. Fairness doesn't seem to be an issue when a disability is involved.  I have yet to meet a person who has said "I wish I had MS (or a wheelchair, Spina Bifida, Parkinson's, an amputated limb, etc.) so that I could have a wading pool.  Or be able to walk my dog without a leash". 

I have to admit that I'm surprised by California.  Our hallway floors are spotless and shiny.  The walls are washed regularly.  There are security people and security cameras everywhere.  Every single door has those handicap button things, where the door can open automatically, by itself.  Theft was a huge problem at Tetonview, as was trying to get thru certain doors easier.  You would have thought we wanted an entire remodel, instead of those little ramps things for the threshold so the wheelchairs could go over easier. 

A couple months ago, my landlady called me on the phone to tell me my rent was late. Imagine that - a human phone call, rather than a note on the door, or being called out in front of everyone in the lobby!  I explained that the bank pays it automatically, but it gets snail-mailed from Tennessee.  She said "Great!", rather than threaten me each month with a late charge, which is what Rhonda did every. single. month. 

So, why the difference, do you think?  Sure, this place is funded with government funds.  Oh wait... so are you.  But it's clear that you're in the business to make money on the backs of old and disabled people, and will cut corners wherever possible, instead of doing the things that would enable your residents to feel safe, happy and as if they live at HOME, rather than in an institution.   There are definite downfalls to my current residence, such as the garbage in the streets, and human filth from the homeless.  But I am HAPPY, I feel safe and secure about having MS for the first time since my diagnosis, and we're not treated like second-class citizens by the staff.  Life is sooo much easier, because the staff seems to understand that we're old and/or disabled and they actually HELP us, and worry about us if we're out too long in the big city.  You, Pam, and Rhonda made it clear that the Tetonview residents were nothing but complainers and whiners, instead of trying to figure out WHY there was such discontent. 

Weird how those complaints and problems went away when we started having resident meetings, and you hired a decent landlady finally, huh?  (Shawna).  And don't think we didn't notice how shabbily you treated the staff.  Going thru 4 or 5 managers, and 3 or 4 maintenance people in 2 years was the reason why I requested those reasonable requests, because I didn't like my lifestyle - my right to live in relative peace - my right not to be threatened with the loss of my animals - "yanked around whenever there were staff changes.  Laura S. noticed what her residents needed, or what they were unable to do or not do, all on her own, and she had compassion.  Tetonview felt like a home back then.

Six months after I've moved, I still hear about the crap going on back in Tetonview.  Nothing's changed.  So the problems weren't all because of me, right?

Of course, right.

Most sincerely up your ass,

Laurie Adamson

1 comment:

Cheer or jeer me on...