Because neither your past Program Manager Jennifer Pargas nor your current Clinical Manager Robert Bowery could be bothered to so much as acknowledge receipt of my oral and written grievance filings, next I analyze former Case Manager Hilary Carr’s passive aggressive 31 December 2015 response to my formal written grievance earlier communicated to her through our verbal conversations, with my outline numbering below corresponding to the numbers I’ve added to her email above.
1. Pace Hilary’s high self-judgment of her qualifications for working with traumatized clients, how emotionally intelligent is it to respond with casual well wishes for the holidays after receiving a multipage grievance filing wherein I described enduring those same holidays under the same roof as a criminally abusive housemate threatening bodily harm and urging action before Delores’s violence became a police matter?
From my perspective, Hilary’s unprofessional response came as something of a whiplash. Until this reply, I had been under the impression that we had established a fairly good working rapport, despite her limited knowledge of the resources within Seattle’s poverty industrial complex or inability to follow through on any of her offers of assistance above and beyond a roof overhead. At least she supplied bus tickets and had not overtly held me responsible for Delores’s criminally abusive behavior.
Instead of expressing concern for my well-being or acknowledging the lengthy documented history of Delores’s foul-mouthed harassment, malicious harassment, and periodic threats of bodily harm leading to both Emily and Selam fleeing the criminal environment that you actively maintain at Restful Peace Cottage, Hilary stuttered her narcissistic I-I-I- beginning the first three unprofessional sentences of her reply, before sharing with me the two “high points” of my grievance according to Hilary.
For me, the “high points” remain 1) my safety, and 2) the safety of my service animal.
2. If my written documentation of my earlier verbalized grievance concerns seemed like a lot for Hilary “to try to wade through,” an MSW from Texas would have dropped out before completing one course in my thick MFA readings in philosophy and psychoanalytic theory, leaving me to wonder what schools for social work in Idaho and Texas, or, for that matter, my undergraduate alma mater in Utah, are teaching, or at least attempting to teach, their students these days-? Deflection 101? Check-the-Check-Boxes 202? And once they complete an upper division course in Shaming and Blaming-the-Victim 404, voilà, here’s your diploma?
While Hilary may have privately felt that my grievance was too lengthy for her personal taste, what does a case manager accomplish by communicating that judgment to her client?
“I do not want to hear your perspective.”
Better communications design: withhold judgments that discourage open communication from your clients.
3. Can you better explain Hilary’s comment to print out and hard copy file my email-? Have you considered digital filing systems as more efficient and ecologically sound options to burying yourselves in wood pulp? Despite her compliments to my comments about reducing paperwork to image data collection on my smartphone, Hilary generated more analogue paperwork for your internal team, and, from my perspective, your administrative staff have accomplished little besides add paperwork to my full stack of priorities. What is your internal procedure for resolving grievances though-? Clearly, shoving my grievance in a file somewhere meant your staff only passive aggressively avoided conflict resolution, creating bigger problems for you.
As I explained to an Idaho mental health court judge too passive aggressive to listen to two sides of an argument, passive aggressive communication is costly.
Passive aggressive communication rationalizes all manner of criminal activities.
Passive aggressive avoidance always exacerbates any conflict. Always.
4. Further baffled by her boundary-setting comment that she would not be discussing her work with other clients with me for confidentiality reasons, I reread through my grievance filing to see how she could have possibly misconstrued anything I said as an attempt to breach confidentiality between herself and Delores.
From my perspective, I could not possibly fit into your half-page grievance form the lengthy history of criminally abusive behavior that Delores had already accumulated within my eyewitness experiences by the close of 2015, further, email is faster than relying on the sporadic interoffice snail mail pickup and delivery by your ever-revolving door of staff, and adds the additional benefits of time- and date-stamping delivery as well as ease of forwarding to external audiences without requiring me to first digitize analogue media. Notice how I sandwiched my grievance between compliments while nevertheless still following your grievance format: describing specific incidents violating our contract terms, making recommendations based on my experiences and educated knowledge of the problem, recommending additional sources to add to my expertise, empathizing with the challenges of Hilary’s job description, and asking for her recommendations-?
True, I ask, “So now I am wondering what tactics have you tried so far?” But earlier I say “I am not being paid to navigate Delores’s trauma for her.” And later I reiterate, “Delores’s psychological health is none of my business.” So how could Hilary have misunderstood that question, immediately followed by my list of tactics I had tried to resolve conflicts with Delores, without success, with any wish to breach confidentiality?
Worse, by the time I received Hilary’s unprofessional response, I had already heard multiple perspectives from my other housemates describing Hilary’s previous breaches of confidentiality for women fleeing domestic violence: the delays in recoding the security door, rekeying the snail mailbox, divulging email and full name information if clients choose to keep that information confidential from each other for their personal security, and so on. So while she may have been acutely sensitive to changing her past missteps, that issue appears to be Hilary’s problem, as well as more of Compass Housing Alliance’s failure to satisfy the “duties and responsibilities of community-based domestic violence programs and emergency shelter programs” as explicitly defined by the state legislature in RCW 70.123.070, not my problem.
Until your staffing problem creates a problem for me.
5. Rather than acknowledge criminally abusive behavior as clear violations of your lease terms that would not be tolerated, Hilary instead urged behavioral changes on my part, or what she described as “active engagement on both sides” without offering any suggestions for changes for me to make.
Worse, she avoided resolving my grievance by deploying the royal “we” in the same paragraph that she implied that my behavior upholding the terms of your lease would result in eviction. After her immediate supervisor’s unprofessional January follow-up threat of eviction for all if Delores’s behavior does not change, your team reinforced my initial impression that Hilary included Delores in her “we,” giving your criminal client some decision-making power over my tenancy, establishing a clear we/you dichotomy between her allegiance with her criminally abusive client and myself.
Why the discriminatory practice?
6. Finally, Hilary passively avoided even offering times for rescheduling mediation that Delores had already twice avoided, despite the urgency of her increasingly threatening behavior, or, again, your budget could be better spent on readily available AI technology replacing personnel somewhat lacking native emotional intelligence.
In reviewing the curricula vitae of your board members to learn who is responsible for this dog-and-pony show ostensibly working toward solving Seattle’s narcissistic aggression problem, I would be baffled as to why none of your case managers offered to help me network into survival administrative support jobs, job-shadowing, or mentoring opportunities with the firms of any of the lawyers on your board, if I did not already realize your case management team members utterly lack networking skills.
Another headline that attracted my attention prior to my lease signing, as well as a name more familiar to me from my genealogy research than current events, jumping out of the fine print of the article: former King County Sheriff Dave Reichert had gone on to become one of the state’s Congressional Representatives in the other Washington:
To my last case management meeting with Hilary on 08 January 2016, I arrived late, it is true, still struggling as I was with weighing walking distances versus infrequent suburban buses, bus pass budget versus otherwise fruitless meetings with your staff, but nevertheless whipped through my punch list that I tapped into my phone on the E-line to her office in the 30 remaining minutes of scheduled meeting time, having learned in less than two months if I did not arrive with an agenda, my case manager would show up unprepared to ask questions relevant to my level of education and revised career goals addressing the issues that have led to my period of homelessness:
Hilary generously supplied an entire booklet of bus passes in hopes of tiding me over while you delayed interviewing replacements until after she moved onto her next position.
We redundantly discussed filling the lack of desk/chair supplied to my unit, as I had by then networked into generous offers on both ends for drivers to meet halfway to facilitate return of my service animal, computer, and slender remaining possessions that had survived my Idaho trafficking experiences, and I wanted to be prepared with a functional desk space, to Hilary’s sour, resentful response to my Herculean efforts in early December, “That was fast.”
Maybe from Hilary’s perspective, accustomed to Compass Housing Alliance that accomplishes goals at the speed of mud or actively works to undermine its own stated vision of a safe community for all, but from my perspective, the Great Recession, a racist schizophrenic elected to Seattle School Board, and the Bundy clan’s criminal behavior had already cost me nearly a decade of what should have been my professional wage-earning career.
All I still needed from the resources within Seattle’s poverty industrial complex was a gas card to compensate a local driver willing to exchange a hand-bound journal for her time, and to schedule logistics between compassionate volunteers on either end of the journey.
“Well, I don’t know,” Hilary’s usual dismissive shrug to my inquiries of the programmatic resources available to Seattle’s dire poor. So much for, “maybe we can help with that,” prior to move in, and “as a holiday gift,” in early December became “after the holidays,” once Compass decided to splurge on Stovetop and L’Eggs instead.
Observing the Lutheran affiliation on your business collateral congruent with U.S. Representative Reichert’s religion, could she help me network through your faith community to potential resources or jobs for trafficking survivors with my perhaps unique combination of experiences and education?
Hilary appeared perplexed.
“He will understand the personal cost and professional value of my skills,” I prompted her memory of my pre-holiday confirmation of my genealogy, even if Hilary never bothered to hear my educated professional experiences.
“Ohh. No, I don’t know.”
And of her Texas background-? Could she help network the designer who art-directed via social media the shot of Wendy Davis standing firm in her pink Mizuno sneakers before the entire Texas state legislature to a lawyer starting an organization to attract women’s engagement in politics, and thus might find mutual interest in swapping resources for job skills, representation, or referrals? Yet another of my telephone interviews scheduled with Mizuno’s ad agency of record in the midst of fleeing human trafficking, severely weakening the logic put forth by a senior electrical engineer at Micron that I lack “motivation” while simultaneously raging at me to provide more unpaid labor for his home.
“What impresses me about her is that she used to be a Republican and is now a Democrat, but teamed up with a Republican partner in her firm, which tells me she is capable of listening to both sides of a conflict,” I explained.
“Umm. Well, maybe.”
Networking to the city’s civil rights lawyer critically injured in my graduate school community seven years after I recommended changes to their curricula to better educate conflict resolution skills before differences exacerbated to the level of sexual assault or mass shootings?
“No, I don’t know.”
Funds available for trafficking survivors, or personnel to contact on Seattle’s trafficking task force?
“Umm, no, I don’t know.”
Hilary wrapped up our final case management meeting by expressing some relief that, in 30 minutes of bringing her up to speed on my accomplishments addressing the issues that led to my experience of homelessness and prioritizing my career goals, I had not mentioned the unresolved conflict of criminal behavior at Restful Peace Cottage to the case manager who had successfully avoided resolving that problem before waltzing onto her next position.
“I thought you might want to talk about Delores,” she exhaled, before complimenting me on my organized approach to meetings.
I can’t speak for Hilary’s perspective, of course, but I suspect my look of bafflement was something like the look I gave the psychiatric pill dispenser who asked me if I had escaped her locked facility to talk to the incompetent mental health professional responsible for locking me in there rather than doing her job and investigating my reports of domestic violence and labor trafficking in between being hauled, wearing shackles and chains, to an early morning Kangaroo Court appearance by a corrupt Ada County Sheriff’s Deputy, and our unscheduled mid-morning session.
Better communications design for outbound case managers wrapping up two months of do-nothing: “I don’t have the answers to your questions today, but I see that I should have been tracking down funding for trafficking survivors from the minute we considered your fit for our program. I will leave your list with my Program Manager to pass along to my replacement.”
If Hilary does not want to build healthy community in the PNW, why not move back to sunny Texas? I hear Wendy Davis estimates some 20,000 untested rape kits there. Must be no shortage of jobs for social workers “expert” in working with victims of sexual abuse in the Lone Star State.
Such a relief to meet on 14 April 2015 with Dr. Katie Gienapp, Ph.D., a retired Lutheran psychologist who volunteered her time and expertise with Elizabeth Gregory Home. She immediately impressed me as being one of those pragmatic, stolid, old-school psychologists who actually read human psychology in college and still more psychoanalytic theory in grad school. None of this new-fangled “mental health professional” with a degree in checkbox checking of the No Child Left Behind generation for Katie.
She arrived late to our appointment, which had been double-booked by the volunteer or underpaid staff supporting the day shelter for homeless women. Easy to understand the mixup when the entire state’s workforce lacks calendaring skills. I waited patiently in the lobby, thankful when Dr. Gienapp agreed to see me ahead of a loud-voiced woman who had arrived after me, telling her grinding, foul-mouthed trauma monologue outsized to her superficial complaints without ever getting to the core of her pain, and who tried to insist that she should be given higher priority.
Thankful again when Dr. Gienapp’s ego was not at all offended by me asking questions about her education and prior experiences; she earned her degree in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and practiced in Chicago for 20 years before retiring with her husband to Seattle some 15 years ago. After briefly outlining my trafficking experiences that led to lockup without due process of law by authorities too undereducated in human psychology or social services to investigate my reports of child abuse, elder abuse, trafficking, and a cold case homicide, Katie told me she could give me a “diagnosis” of PTSD “based on your family history” so I could qualify for Metro’s disabled pass and reduce the homeless shelter’s budget from $2.50 face value to $1.00 passes for each of their clients undergoing the admittedly traumatic experience of dire poverty.
The thing is, I would like to design a world where I am judged on my behavior, effort, education, and hard work, and rewarded for my stellar achievements, not misjudged on my ancestry or the behavior of my family or the criminal environment actively encouraged by Compass Housing Alliance.
If I have post-traumatic stress disorder, with my combination of genetics and early childhood upbringing – or nature/lack of nurturing – then for the future of the world, you may hope and pray – if you’re the praying kind – that PTSD is a mental illness, that “mental illness” truly is a disease of the brain as your friendly neighborhood pharmaceutical sales rep would like you to believe, and that my version of “PTSD” is a contagious strain of that “disease.”
Now to infect the world…
Katie and I also discussed the results of my graduate research, my four years of applying for academic jobs before I had to give up and accept that my credentials from the lowly University of Idaho would never land me an academic job in this era of corporatizing education perhaps best described by Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee in his social treatise disguised as a novel, Diary of a Bad Year, resulting in my decision to attempt to pitch my trauma-recovery and healthy communication skills directly to communities, where that learning is most needed anyway.
“Do it,” she urged, of my project Nadine, for which I have already completed the identity and branding, the work that Seattle Public Library paid $350,000 to Hornall Anderson before the community quite vigorously decided it does not care about its aesthetic.
Or Seattle prefers its visual illiteracy.
To Katie I explained that design is a full-time job, art-making is also a full-time job, and of course from her career experiences she already knows that psychotherapeutic care can also be a full-time job. From my experiences with Seattle’s schoolteachers, I learned the hard way that people do not usually think of paying for design, choosing to fumble around with readily available 21st century tools and make amateur design decisions until they grow frustrated with the technology, and instead recognize only the need to pay for “marketing” – a money manager further separating the communications between the client and the visually educated communicator. Because artists cannot bill Medicaid, I asked if she could recommend me to her psychology colleagues wanting to design healthy community.
Katie confessed that, in 15 years in Seattle, she had not been able to network into a healthy community.
And now I see what she meant by that.
Gauging from her husband’s presence on your board, she has only been able to network into your community.
Our hour-long consultation came to a close with her double-booked appointment loudly demanding her “right” to see a psychologist volunteering her expertise to the homeless women’s day center, and Katie insisting that a diagnosis of “delusional” has nothing to do with publicly accessible record.
Clearly, Katie has not met my genetic father’s family.
If we had five more minutes, I might have responded, as I later explained to another Seattle Ph.D. psychologist Dr. Kelsey Kennedy, drily, meeting her eyes directly, “You know that. And I know that. But Idaho’s mental juridical health professionals do not know how to use Google to differentiate between publicly accessible fact and ‘delusion.’”
Katie also asked me a thought-provoking question. My immediate answer should have been, what’s your budget? Before I set to work providing professional visual solutions to your problem, let’s first sign a contract. What would you like to accomplish? In what timeframe?
“Grace,” Katie asked, “What would grace look like communicated visually?”
That evening, in a hard-tiled, fluorescent-lit room loud with the simultaneous trauma-telling of a broad swath of Seattle’s homeless women after sitting for two hours in chairs waiting before lining up by first disability, second, age for the privilege, I sat across a cafeteria-style table from a snub-nosed, leathered white woman with solid black grime under her fingernails, picking at the facsimile of food on a plastic tray.
She responded with barking, guttural laughter to my initial attempt at dinner conversation, “So, what did you do in your real life before you entered this hellhole?”
Believe it or not, she had previously been the director of a Christian women’s homeless shelter, and she defined grace as an acronym: Giving Respect And Compassion to Every living creature. She also shared with me health issues and described fleeing domestic violence that led to her own homelessness, while frequently disrupting her own trauma monologue by expressing disdain for the other women in the room.
Granted, around us, fistfights periodically erupted, obstructing our conversation.
What her G.R.A.C.E. looked like in practice:
“What is that?” she asked at one point, staring over my left shoulder, “Is that a man or a woman?”
“Is that question of gender—“
“Well, I don’t care. As long as they’re not staring at my breasts.”
“—important to you?”
Another bitter bark of a laugh, “As long as they don’t have a penis, I guess they can be in here. Don’t get me wrong, I like men, I just don’t want to be around them…”
That is not what giving respect and compassion to every living creature looks like to me.
In terms of identity and branding, Katie’s U-District Lutheran congregation already visually communicates grace with a nice modernist, stylized eternal flame, better communicated via the chapel’s physical signage than it is here, nearly obscured against a red horizontal band across its 21st century global communications. Another excellent example of how our design literacy has not kept pace with our technology:
Further, her neighborhood Lutheran identity differs from the visual identity core to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, confusing that relationship to your external audience:
Really? Lutheran money is separate from Jewish money, separate again from Muslim cash? And when and where might all of these religious communities come together, be proximate, find commonality across their differences?
And all the rest of the chaotic Lutheran print and web collateral communicates a desperate need for visually educated designers if you hope to solve your communication problems worldwide.
What’s your budget? What’s your timeframe?
By the time I met with trauma-educated, relatively healthy social worker Amy Salins on 30 June 2016, I felt ready to provide a verbal answer to Katie’s question, curiously similar to Bob Keppel’s vision for the homicide detective of the future. How I recommend learning to empathize with the serial killer’s or mass shooter’s perspective – without condoning their egregiously violent behavior – is by recognizing that they were children once, likely abused children, perhaps even the product of incest rape.
Your Christ didn’t look in the mirror to find grace while nailed to his cross. He hung between murderers and thieves. Looked to the left. Looked to the right. There he saw grace.
If you’re not there yet, I feel ready to teach that too.
If anything, I wonder if Delores might be targeting so much of her rage toward me, not so much due to my ancestry, but because on a brute, animal level, the level at which we smell fear or long for compassionate care, she gets that I hear her multigenerational trauma, and she desperately wants my level of healing. Your staff busily appeasing her rage fail to maintain the boundaries of your lease terms and Washington law much as her boundaries have been violated over and over and over again. When she is raging, she does not need to be petted and soothed, as I observed April doing during the June house meeting. Diane’s pain needs to be heard. The appropriate place for recovering from her trauma, however, is in painting studio or psychotherapy, where she may learn, under the guidance of a trauma-educated professional, that raging at her housemates is inappropriate, criminal behavior.
Looking back at my May meeting minutes, vastly different from April’s minutes from the same meeting, I again wonder why your case, program, and clinical staff are persistently failing to assess the root of her pain, when Delores is so vocal with articulating her trauma-?
Again, I offer my resources for better educating your staff, online and tuition-free. As I have already written, trauma weaves its way into our speech, which operates on the weft of daily living, but also reveals the warp of the cloth. Delores speaks the unspeakable even while superficial conflict occupies her attention and the attention of your easily distracted staff. During May’s meeting:
“I do know people know what my fucking dishes are.”
“I need justice because I’ve been violated more than once.”
“My anger comes from being ganged up on.”
In Lacanian analysis, her language too severe to apply to dishes, compost, or household chores reveals, in addition to whatever horrors she endured throughout her early child development – or perhaps that was the horror of her childhood – Delores was gang-raped. Your staff exacerbate her traumatic experience each and every time they do not provide the assurance of maintaining the healthy boundaries of your lease terms and Washington law while financially benefitting from her yard work that maintains your property values.
Empathy for the individuals who commit the most heinous crimes of our society does not mean I condone or encourage their chronologically adult, criminally abusive behavior, however.