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Thursday, August 25, 2016

How I navigated being homeless while deaf

When we last heard from Felicity, she was on her way to Rosie's Place. Here's what happened next.
I went to Rosie's Place on July 1st 2011. They are a woman-only shelter with 20 beds, awarded by a lottery system. If you win a bed, you are allowed to stay for 21 consecutive days. I arrived around 7:30 am and stood in line with about a dozen other woman, all ages, all races. They had 3 beds available. They handed us each a numbered playing card, then drew numbers. Miraculously I won a bed on my first attempt.

The other 2 women became my new roommates, along with a fourth woman that was already staying at the shelter. One of my roommates was middle-aged, she'd been living in her car after getting laid off, my other roommate was in her 30's, her boyfriend had abandoned her after moving with her to Boston from the Dominican Republic. My fourth roommate was middle-aged and had a full-time job at Macy's.

At some point during our stay, my roommate who had been living in her car, developed a serious kidney problem. Her leg swelled like a log, and she had to be transferred to the hospital. When our Macy's roommate's stay ended, her bed was taken by a young recovering addict.

At this point in time, I was getting bi-weekly chemo infusions (Editor's note: one of the new treatments for Neurofibromatosis Type 2 is chemo!), and swallowing gobs of prescribed Carbamazepine, an anti-convulsant, to treat The Worst Pain Known to Man. So on top of the stress of being homeless, I was enduring extreme pain and fatigue.

We were not allowed to stay in our rooms during the day. We were required to leave at 8am and be back by 6pm. If you didn't adhere to the rules, you'd lose your bed.

No one cares if you have brain tumors, are deaf, are getting infused with poison to save your life. No one gets special treatment when you're homeless.

Shelter employees are not medical professionals. They are mostly ignorant about disability and disease. They treat homeless clients like criminals.

One day I returned to the shelter and entered the dining room with a bottle of water, it was the middle of July, blazing hot.. The kitchen manager began screaming at me. I said, I'm deaf, I don't understand. She continued raging at me, until I finally deduced that my 16.9 oz, half-full water bottle from CVS, was prohibited contraband. How naive of me. //snark//
Another time a supervisor instructed guests to go downstairs. We roomed on the 3rd floor, I went down to the first floor. The counselor came down and began screaming,
counselor: What are you doing down here?!?!?!

me: I'm sorry I'm deaf, you said go downstairs.
counselor: NOT THE 1ST FLOOR, THE 2ND FLOOR!!!
Once a week there was a medical clinic. I went one day, ailing my ass off, to ask if I could be transferred to Boston Healthcare for the Homeless facilities. The answer was no, because I didn't require in-patient care.
Felicity's story will continue.
Just FYI, here are some other shelters for women in Boston:
Project Hope
Sancta Maria House For Women – no website listed (that I could find) but here’s the phone number 617-423-4366
Woods-Mullen Shelter

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