When Insecurity Comes Home

“The door is open!” I didn’t understand what she was saying until I looked at the front door of the house and saw it resting two-feet wide.

Did we walk out of the house and leave the front door open? That doesn’t sound right, not with the air conditioning on and us trying to keep the energy bill affordable. Funny the thoughts that pass through your mind when something so outside your normal experience happens.

“The dogs!” She’s still ahead of me on this one. Yes, I suppose the dogs could have opened the door and walked out, better go check.

So I walked into the house and looked for the dogs. There they were, so I guessed they didn’t open the door and walk out. But, wait, the back door is ajar, too. No way we left the front and the back door open with the air conditioning on. Hmmm… and all of the drawers of the dressers are open and inordinately messy. I don’t remember us doing that this morning…

Oh. I see. Somebody else did this, not us.

After my mind starts working again, I call 911 and report a break in. I go next door to the other half of the duplex and while my neighbor is not there, two of the neighbor’s friends who stayed the night are. That side of the house was also broken into through the back door. That side is also missing computers and other easily re-sellable electronic items. The neighbor’s friends slept through the break in, which might actually be good if it is what prevented confrontation and violent conflict from ensuing.

After the police wrap up taking their report from us, she expresses a feeling of violation. There are tears. By contrast, I’m emotionless. I’m practical and rational (my way of not having to deal with the emotions). I need to go to the hardware store and get what I need to secure the broken back doors so that we might feel even a little bit safe tonight.

And this is where it hits me, how this relates to my work. I walk into abandoned buildings that, unfortunately, are homes for some very vulnerable and sick people. I’ll walk into an abandoned building without a second thought of the dangers that could lurk inside. But I don’t ever expect any danger to walk into my own home. I take for granted that those doors and locks keep us, the dogs, and our things safe.

It turns out the locking doors don’t keep us safe, not always. But they do make it a lot harder for someone to break in. They do make it such that a concerted effort to shatter and splinter the rear door frame is required for unauthorized entry. This is something that, if you’ve been reading the blog since at least this spring, you know is a real difference for our clients. The post Katy wrote (She was raped) was inspired by an occurrence from when a severely disabled woman living in a building with no working locks met an assailant who walked right in through the front door.

Two days later the emotions have finally begun to set in for me. They are a mixture of gladness and anger. I’m glad the dogs are okay. I’m glad we weren’t home, especially not she alone (yes, I recognize the chauvinism in this, but still it is there). And yet I’m still angry that someone shattered our illusion of safety and security in the course of only a few minutes on a Saturday morning. Illusion or not, it was easier to sleep when that psychological comfort was in place.

People wonder why our clients don’t just go find jobs and rent nice places, never mind the disabilities and illnesses by which they are plagued. I’m having trouble functioning two days after a mere break in and burglary. If I slept in a place with no locks (sometimes the buildings don’t even have doors) I’d jump at even the slightest noise. I’d find myself trying to catch catnaps at day knowing every night would be a long one.

Based on my experience this weekend, the fact that our clients keep it together at all is itself a sign of their resilience. Further, the idea that they should be able to put it together without help is ludicrous, and that’s without considering the disabilities and illnesses they are coping with in these wide open, unsecured and crumbling structures that they call home.


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