Last week was a bit crazy around the Lighthouse, as the letters we had sent out the previous week encouraging our tenants who were late with the rent to come talk to the managers made some clients very angry.
Many people came and paid this months rent plus what they owed in back payment (some people just need a friendly reminder). Another gentleman told us he needed to pay his cable bill so therefore he would not be paying back his late rent.* With so little money given for living allowance it is very hard to pay back old rent if a person on social assistance gets behind. This would make most landlords evict the tenant and try their luck with someone else. Often lack of rent payment burns landlords so bad they stop renting to people on social assistance and sometimes renting to any one at all.
At the Lighthouse we try to be understanding and give grace where grace is needed. But one gentleman thinks we ‘owe’ him and is insulted every time we ask for the rent that is due us. He came charging into the Housing Manager’s office. The Housing Manager and our GM tried to have a civil conversation with him but it quickly elevated to swearing and threats from him. I stood in the hallway to try to prevent him from not going towards the door which leads out of the wing of offices.**
This client, with a history of drug abuse, suicide attempts right in front of us, and mental illness starts saying, “Boy you’re lucky I won’t throw you out the window,” and “You’re suck a bleepin’ goof,” and “Let’s take it outside!” He’s ranting and ranting and eventually ends up on the other side of the glass door which separates the offices from the lobby.
We all breathe a sigh of relief, he’s mad but he’s far enough away he can’t hurt us and we can walk away from him, even if he refuses to leave the lobby.
I notice some donors in the lobby dropping of quilts with a terrified look in their eyes. I ask them to come to the door so I can let them drop of their blankets. As I open the door, the irate client tried to shove his way past me and back into the office, yelling the whole time. And I push him in the chest, out the doorway and then pull the door shut, yelling right back at him the whole time.
So not okay. The Housing Manager yells at me to get back in my office. I feel like a complete utter ass. Pushing a client? This is an extreme new low for me, and yet it was in the moment and it was self defense. I didn’t think about it, I was just protecting the staff and myself from this volatile person.
He continues ranting and raving but goes up to his room. We call the cops. By the time the cops come our councillor has been talking to the client and calmed him down a considerable amount. Him seeing the cops works him back up again, but the cops quietly and thoughtful say, “We can do this the hard way or the easy way,” and start putting on their gloves. They leave him to stew in his apartment.
The cops interview me. Nothing they can do, they say. Nothing they could charge him with. Which I understand, I guess. They say we should evict him. And, they advice, if they were us, they would evict him immediately. Immediately means at least two weeks to get a hearing set at the Rentalsmen. Which means the staff have to walk on eggshells for the next two weeks, while this person who has threatened us continues to remain in the building with us.
(Later that day this gentleman follows our General Manager on his walk home, berating and taunting him. Thank the Lord I drive.)
Anyways, eventually the ladies who brought the quilts were able to hand them over to me, and I threw them onto the floor. Not very nicely, as I am very thankful for all bedding as we are always in need of it. They see I’m all worked up and they say, “You don’t get paid enough for this dear.”
Good thing I don’t do it for the pay. But I sure as hell don’t do it to feel threaten and scared everyday either.
*Not okay with us but next to impossible to argue with this line of reasoning- all other things are more important than paying rent because he believes we won’t evict him. Another story for another time.
**Wing is kind-of a joke, there are four offices plus the front desk.