(Ed. Note: The August 3 San Francisco Chronicle story on supportive housing brought sharp negative reaction from many Mission Hotel tenants. Here is one response)
As a resident of the Mission Hotel for the last 4 ½ years, I wanted to give a different perspective on the role supportive housing plays for individuals. I have struggled with physical disability, mental illness and drug addiction for most of my life. I have been in and out of jails, prisons and mental institutions since 1987 when I was 15. Becoming homeless again for a year in 2008 I really hit bottom. I was struggling with my Borderline Personality Disorder, drug abuse, untreated pain from Multiple Hereditary Exostoses and things were getting worse for me each day. Eventually I found the GA office and that is where things started to change for me. I spoke to a social worker when applying for food stamps who got me directed to the right place to apply for SSI/disability (I have Borderline Personality Disorder and Multiple Hereditary Exostoses). Once I started getting assistance from the county I was eligible for a bed in a shelter.
My service dog and I had spent only about 2 months in the shelter when I got the incredible news that my name had come up for housing! I moved into the Mission Hotel in May of 2009 and it was difficult at first. Getting used to being inside and following new rules was rough, I had some struggles at times. The building management worked with me and helped me with the adjustment when it got too hard.
With my housing stabilized I started getting medical care for my bone disorder. I have a doctor now, I see the specialists that I need. I have the surgeries I need to increase my mobility. I work with pain management, do physical therapy and have even recently gone off all pharmaceutical pain drugs and stopped using a wheelchair. Having my physical pain and disability under control makes coping with the rest of life so much easier. Without stable housing, I wouldn’t be able to receive this care, especially the surgeries.
In September of 2009 I was awarded SSI and in November I found intense mental health therapy with a local agency. I attended groups and individual therapy with them for 18 months before I felt like I could do more than just survive from one day to the next. In January of 2011 I started school at City College of San Francisco. In March of 2011 I was chosen for a year-long internship with San Francisco Women Against Rape, doing street outreach with at risk women.
I actually was part of the pilot program and got to help design it. I have continued at City College, where I am close to graduating. Besides my AA degree I have also been working hard toward a Community Mental Health Worker certificate and a Diversity and Social Justice certificate. I start my semester-long internship with Pathways to Discovery (a county run agency) in just a few days. That is the last step in my becoming a certified mental health worker. I hope to soon be working in a job similar to the case manager positions that the Tenderloin Housing Clinic provides to its tenants.
I am not completely out of the “system”, but I am much closer to success here at the Mission Hotel than I could ever have been without the stability THC provides me with. For the first time in my life I see the possibility not only of an independent life and the ability to take care of myself but the possibility of being able to help other people find their way out of hopelessness as well.
I don’t want to even think about where I might be without supportive housing. I definitely wouldn’t be succeeding in the ways I am now.