There is a homeless alcoholic man that comes to the wellness and recovery center that I work at. I’ve known him from my past but hadn’t seen him for at least 20 years until recently. Typically he comes if the weather is inclement. Sometimes he just comes in and hangs around. Since we serve lunch he usually stays for it and may sit in on the morning group. He will talk in group but he doesn’t join any other groups nor does he do any art. He mooches money and rides from members of the center. Sometimes he harasses other members in the center then tells them he’s just kidding them. He’ll drink alcohol and come in stinking of booze. He’s tried to hug me while he was inebriated. He’s tried to hug other members of the center with negative consequences. He’ll sit on the couches or if he feels especially rowdy he’ll kibitz at the art table.
He is in a dysfunctional relationship with one of the staff in the center. One day around Thanksgiving I think, he wrestled her down even after she asked him to stop rough housing with her. Later he flipped out on her and trashed her kitchen and wrote a nasty phrase on her fridge. She didn’t call the cops and he left when she threatened to. She was really upset and vowed that when she saw him again she was going to throw his belongings outside and not allow him into her apartment.
She accepted him back into her apartment saying that it’s cold and Winter and blah, blah, blah. She complained that he didn’t do much when he was there except maybe cook and make a bad mess. I had a conversation with him once this summer about what we remembered about our shared school experience. I mistook him for someone else but then quickly realized that he wasn’t the person I thought I knew. I stopped getting involved with anything to do with him when this event happened: I had given him a ride to a place (a friend’s house,) that he asked to go. When his “friend” wasn’t there he decided to have me drive him around town looking for said friend. I told him no and said I’d take him into town. He asked me for money. I said no, I don’t give money out to people. I also had things to do not involving ferrying someone else around town for a couple of hours. I was respectful but firm.
While he and this staff member were at her apartment “socializing” he mentioned that he had a long torrid affair with my sister. (He will almost always ask me how my sister is doing and will tell me if he’s seen her driving in town. My sister wants nothing to do with this man. She’s seen him shuffling around town and knew him from school.) Of course this being a jealous stab at the staff member she came in and told me herself what he said. I at first got angry but then started to laugh and told the woman that she had no reason to fear. My sister would never have gone out with him then nor now, he was pulling her strings. I laughed it off and told my sister. She was grossed out but was like “whatever”.
More shenanigans happened at the center when the Christmas season came on. He came in, invited by his companion and left to his devices by the other staff members. He caused a scene and insisted that he didn’t mean my sister, sidled up to me and told me I had to listen to his apology at the lunch table as I tried to finish my lunch. I told him what he said didn’t matter, no apology was needed. I had nothing to say to him and I was not involved with whatever he was dealing with. The rest of the day was punctuated with him having a tantrum and then pleading for forgiveness and then tears and then anger and swearing. He slammed his hands on the art table to make his point and demanded my attention and then other peoples’ attentions. It was very dramatic and to say the least uncomfortable.
Any time I have seen him (on the street or in the center,) he brings up his apology and my having to accept it. I usually just leave after repeating that it’s old news and I don’t want to hear it.
My mind is in a spinout as I’m seriously considering quitting this job. There are so many red flags that it’s distracting me from pinning down what’s really bothering me about the job. Is it that an alcoholic homeless person is allowed to come in and be unstable in a place that is for people who are suppose to be working on their recovery? Is it the fact that this person is allowed to drink clandestinely while in a business that is about sobriety and recovery? Is it that the business rents from a religious institution and the potential of this person’s drinking may help us lose the space we rent? Is it that this person who is homeless and an alcoholic threatens people when he is unstable and is unpredictable? Is it that this person panhandles and asks for rides while he’s at the business? Is it that he constantly feels the need to discuss his personal issue with me that I tell him doesn’t need to be talked about? Is it that his behavior (and smell of alcohol on his breath,) trigger me and make me want to leave?
(More later on:) is it that he is in a dysfunctional relationship with one of the staff at the work place and she allows him to come in? Is it the fact that she knows he’s drinking and has brought booze to the center? Is it the fact that most if not all of the staff are enabling him to behave this way by not making him leave? Is it that this same worker came in a few weeks ago and told us that this man abused her and then tore her kitchen apart writing “You’re a BITCH” in permanent marker? Is it the fact that everyone agreed that he shouldn’t be allowed in again because of his abusive behavior and yet again everyone is allowing him to come in because it’s cold?
Is it the subtle mental manipulations from the head that suggests to me that I am wrong like the head saying that I must be sick and that I have to be more professional and answer questions in group with clear answers instead of vague dismissive ones like I did ONE TIME that wednesday (homeless abusive man was there in group.) Is it the fact that everybody seems to be involved with everyone else’s business with staff? Is it the fact that the person who is manager doesn’t want to be manager there? Is it that one of the other staffers is constantly taking things home that have been donated to the center without permission? Is it that no one seems to know the operating protocol for the center? Is it that enforcement of any common sense protections against serious potential problems are not administered and serious problems are denied or brushed under the rug? Is it the fact that this problem with particular person was suppose to be addressed back when the abuse happened?
I wrote the italicized paragraph 2 days ago (1/7/15) while I was very upset and feeling like I was in the wrong but somehow there was something weird afoot.
I’ve talked to at least 4 people about it because I felt so confused about what happened on Wednesday. (What happened was that the guy came in again. No one told him to leave, everyone spoke behind his back and he drank while he was in the center. He also ridiculed one of the other members and again told me of his apology. And the manager derided me for not participating in group.)
When I try to bring up an issue I think is a problem I’m brushed off as if I don’t know what I’m talking about or told that it’s not an issue or I’m told that what I perceive is not what is going on. If I take anything to the place I can expect it to be pilfered by one of the workers who’s already taken at least 3 things I’ve brought for the good of the whole center. The whole place and staff seems very dysfunctional. One of the workers told me that they don’t like to make decisions and will foist it of on anyone else who’ll make it for them. Another is constantly asking me for meds she can’t get so she can get some sleep. Another’s head is buried in the internet more than half the day when she’s not doing the bare minimum of her job.
Am I being too sensitive? Am I expecting too much?
After talking to the people I knew about handling this whole situation professionally I came up with a short list of positive things I could do to come to a resolution to handling this whole state of affairs at the center.
- List my issues (this is just for me and a potential meeting with the director from the home office.)
- Ask specifically about the policy on dealing with potentially violent people in the center.
- Ask if we can post the center’s policies up so everyone can see.
This is why I refused to give a detailed answer during the group: I was very disgusted that what was agreed upon last time about homeless abusive guy was ignored. I don’t feel that anything that is said or done in the center is serious. Why be involved if I am going to have to deal with two faced decisions? I felt that I was at risk and his alcohol on his breath triggered me. I really didn’t want to be there.
I feel that there are a few solutions:
- Quit. Don’t go back.
- Quit this position but ask if I can volunteer at the center. That way if I feel threatened in the future I can leave immediately.
- Quit this position but ask if I can work at the center in the city.
- Don’t quit, wait to see if the director from the city has a better suggestion or if her input will solve the issues that have been long standing and work until another crisis arises.
- Don’t quit. don’t say anything but withdraw from any social interactions with any of the staff or clients.
- Quit but see if I can become an independent contractor so I can teach WRAP and IPS at the center like I wanted.