November 1, 2012

My roommates at the shelter in Waltham seem to be ganging up on me with the coughing harassment.

The woman who was in the bottom bunk of the bunk bed that I’m in switched beds with another woman in the room, so that when she’s restless at night she won’t be as disruptive as she would be to anyone who could ever be in the other bed of whatever bunk bed she’s in; that arrangement has worked much better.  She has continued to cough at me, though; she coughs at me every time that she sees me, every time that she walks into a room that I’m in, every time that I walk into a room that she’s in where she thinks that she can get away with coughing at me.  Then she either does or doesn’t apologize, saying “Sorry,” which, of course, is not a genuine apology because she’s deliberately harassing me.

Several days ago, I confronted her about it, and she started yelling at me “You need to stop!  The world isn’t yours.”

I’ve never said that the world is mine.  I have the same rights as everyone else, or as everyone else ought to have; not to be abused, and not to be lied to about being abused.

During the last conversation that I had with the social worker for the shelter, who works at another building, she and I agreed what when someone started to annoy me I could talk to whoever the staffperson is at any given time about it.  I did that once, and it did work to alleviate some of my frustration about the problem.  However, the staffperson told me to ignore it, and what that means is that the problem still isn’t being recognized or addressed for what it is.  The fact of the matter is that there are people at that shelter, including some staff, who deliberately and repeatedly do things to annoy and upset other people there, not just me.  Deliberately and repeatedly doing things whose only purpose is to annoy and upset other people, or to intimidate them when they haven’t done anything to you that could even begin to make the fact that you want to intimidate them understandable even if the desire to intimidate someone isn’t a pacifist emotional response, is harassment.  When those things have the specific implication “Your vagina smells and you are sexually dirty,” it’s sexual harassment.

I have yet to be at a shelter where the rule that you have to try to respect people is absent, and I also have yet to be at a shelter where the staff or management respected that rule and put a stop to the harassment, where there weren’t staff participating in or supporting the harassment, and where my attempts to make the harassment stop were successful and didn’t carry the risk of my being made to leave.

Over the past week, I’ve continued to confront the roommate who has been harassing me since I got to the shelter, and she’s kept harassing me. I haven’t meant to confront her when I’ve done it; I get too annoyed to keep it to myself and then I’ll say something.  I’m only around the other people from that shelter early in the morning and at night when we’ve all gotten back, except for the times when I see them at some of the day shelters.  In the morning, I know I have a day of stalking and harassment to get through, and at night, I’ve just been through it.  I also haven’t wanted to press the staff with my concerns, since the only thing that I was able to get the social worker to agree to was that I could talk to staff about it if it bothered me.

Last night, the roommate coughed at me while she was walking past me into the office where the staffperson was.  There was also another homeless woman in the office.  I lost my temper for a minute, and didn’t plan to talk to the staffperson; I just said “She coughs at me all the time.  Every time she sees me, she does it.”

Later,when I gave the staffperson my phone, which we all have to do before we go to bed, she touched her nose.  Later still, she opened the door of my room and asked to speak to the roommate who had been harassing me.

Very early this morning, the roommate who has the husband who is also a Labor Ready employee and who harasses me every time that I have to work with him did some coughing.  This morning, when I had been out of the room for a while and went back into the room so that I could get dressed, the roommate who now has the bottom bunk of the bunk bed coughed.  Then the married roommate coughed some more.  The other roommate was already out of the room.

I said, sarcastically, “It’s a love fest in here this morning.”

There was some more coughing.  I said “I don’t know what your problem is.  I don’t do anything to anyone here, so I don’t know what the f— your problem is.”

This afternoon, a guy coughed at me when I walked by him on the sidewalk. I had already been stalked and harassed since I left the shelter this morning, and, as I crossed the street, I yelled at him “You’re a pathetic, ignorant loser.”  I turned back from yelling that, and saw the married roommate and her husband walking past me in the crosswalk of the street.

Copyright L. Kochman, November 1, 2012 @ 4:22 p.m.