Guest post by Leo
As a Veteran of WWII, I served in combat, starting at age seventeen, and returned with three bronze stars. I did this because I believed in and fought for my Country’s freedoms. I have seen and believed in much in my eighty-seven years, but Bullying and Mobbing in my housing development has changed my mind about the right to freedom in my own home and my right to speak. I fought for our collective freedoms, and I am angry that I now have to fight for my right to live without fear in my home. I risked my life for people who now Bully me in my old age.
End bullying and mobbing in subsidized housing
My name is Leo, and I write to anyone who will listen to my strong position on the passing of S604, or legislation that provides comparable protection and remediation. I live in Subsidized Housing for the Elderly and the Disabled; we live in Western Massachusetts. My position is shared by many others who remain silent and numb in their own apartments, the targets of Bullying and Mobbing. Not only am I able to present a scenario that demonstrates that Bullying—or institutional Mobbing in my place of living—I also believe that my self-instruction and thinking on the matter has helped me conclude that any solution to this insidious problem must be based primarily on quick intervention, and providing immediate safety and protection to those who are Targets. Targets must be believed. Once targeted, a victim of institutional Bullying or Mobbing will become fear-based in their own home environment. Allowing them to remain in the toxic environment while “things get sorted out” will foster chronic trauma in the victim; they will be trapped in their own homes.
We have three chronically bullied residents here, all suffering Major Depression and PTSD; one from Workplace Mobbing. They will spend their lives trying to get well. If this is so, why would we want to actively pursue practices and behavioral patterns that foster chronic trauma in the Subsidized Housing sector, a place where people like this come to live as a last resort? In school settings, not believing the Target has led to suicide. This cannot be allowed in Subsidized Housing.
I write out of fear for myself and other elders, and those living with disabilities in Massachusetts Subsidized Housing; fear of retaliation and eviction for speaking out. I write because we are targets of toxic overt and covert Bullying in our own homes. I write because we live with institutionalized and entrenched Mobbing. I write because we are poor and have nowhere else to go. And I write because of the silent rage and open disgust my peers and I feel on a daily basis.
Please consider my personal experience and situation as representing others who are too fearful to speak; please fight for and pass S604, or legislation that provides comparable protection and remediation. If I have changed my mind about my right to freedom and the right to enjoy peacefulness in my own home, how many countless others there must be who are demoralized and depressed. Please help us regain our voices and freedoms. Help me and others change our minds, and restore our fundamental rights to live without fear in our homes.
When I moved into my apartment ten years ago, life was quiet here. Community facilities were used and shared; no one was prohibited or harassed. People behaved like grownups. There was an experience of individual autonomy and self-possession, despite the fact that most arrived here having had experienced great loss (spouses, homes, possessions, cars, poverty). The community was flexible and tolerant; people minded their own business, this all in the context of a diversity of tenants.
Then sometime beginning in 2010, things began to change; new people moved in, and a tightly regimented tenant’s association developed. This filled a void left by an absentee landlord and bad management. Association meetings were run by strict procedures, and open bickering amongst tenants predominated. Proposals of the hierarchy were easily passed by the votes of passive followers; attendance dwindled.
The mission of providing enhanced living, social, recreation and education opportunities vanished. In its place, a privileged, entitled small group reigned. The community space is patrolled; it is amazing how they show up just as you sit down (and then you must leave due to discomfort); the laundry room, often used by quieter residents at night to avoid the chaos, also seems to be patrolled; puzzles worked on by residents are boxed and the table put away; the weekly board games stopped due to bickering and conflict; parking spaces are monopolized and instructions (sometimes aggressively shouted by those in charge) are given as to where people could park; unsuspecting health care aides found themselves blocked in by the “official” cars because it was “their parking space”, although we have no assigned parking. One tenant was told that she could not bring her Emotional Support Dog in to get her mail. What gets put in the dumpster is monitored. Free food provided by outside sources is monitored. Books donated to the Library have been removed and sold, or given away for no apparent reason.
Individuals have left the development in large part due to the officials' arrogance and Bullying. A verbal complaint by a resident, presented to the Manager, quickly ceased, when she realized that there was no point of continuing and was told to learn to “get along”.
This on-site dynamic is enhanced by an absentee Landlord, an absent Housing Authority, a part-time, untrained Manager, and a lone-wolf resident Narcissist Bully, who covertly keeps the officers and residents in line, living in fear or numbness. No one is in charge; there is no one to listen or hear; there is no leadership; unrestrained Bullying and wider Mobbing now reigns.
How can this be fixed?
Five things stand out in my mind:
- Living in Subsidized housing is never a life goal. People live in Subsidized Housing due to loss: loss of health, financial independence and age. No one looks forward to living here. Most residents exhibit signs of depression. This is a truly unique demographic, with unseen and complex needs.
- Management, the Housing Authority and the Owner must do—or be made to do—the jobs they have always been obliged to do, this is not optional;
- Targets of Bullying and Mobbing must be protected and remain safe immediately after Bullying/Mobbing takes place or is discovered;
- The reporting of Bullying must be a safe process, and retaliation should be anticipated;
- The process for remedying individual and chronic Bullying/Mobbing incidents must not linger.
Management and Owners must be doing their jobs. In a Subsidized Housing setting, Management should know their tenants, must know the mix of needs that exists among tenants, and keep an active presence within the community. By virtue of living in Subsidized Housing, Residents have different needs than others; this is not typical “apartment living”. If funding is not available to perform these essential functions of having a positive Management presence on the site, priorities must be re-evaluated and changed, and tenants’ rights and safety must become central. Preventing the seed of Bullying and Mobbing from flourishing must be primary. That is the overseers’ responsibility; no one else’s. Bullying or Mobbing cannot be tolerated, not even for one incident; it must be rooted out quickly, and by those in charge or their qualified representative. If preventing and curtailing Bullying within the confines of a housing development—and its managements’ oversight cannot be achieved under its own active willingness and authority—a process or plan must must be imposed from the outside. An educated and strong staff or contracted Social Worker might be a good adjunct.
Safety of Targets
Targets must be immediately made safe when Bullying or Mobbing starts. Targets must be everyone’s top priority. Many options that can protect may exist (Social Services), and though they may be viewed as inconvenient and intrusive, they are better than allowing the “Bully next door” to remain the neighbor of a Target. Targets need a “safehouse”.
Reporting on bullying must be a safe process
This requires little explanation. Reporters must be safe in the environment of gossip and retaliation. Retaliation must be treated as an expansion of the initial Bullying or Mobbing incident, and it indicates a potential widening of the institutional pathology.
The remedial process must not linger
Swift action is for the benefit of all parties: the Bullied resident(s), the Management, the Owner and the Housing Authority. Publicity is terrifying for the injured and bad for business. If Owners, Managers and Housing Authorities need any impetus to [deleted:] prevent or stop Bullying and Mobbing, a reputation for allowing this severely injuring behavior may make them think twice.
Policies, Rules and By-laws have long existed in Subsidized Housing. These documents shape the living conditions for a variety of reasons, most importantly safety and public health. Designing, implementing and enforcing policies or plans to prevent and stop Bullying and Mobbing would not be an expansion into uncharted territory for the overseers of Subsidized Housing. Indeed, these Policies or Plans would simply be an expansion of the historically regulated matters of safety and health. I urge everyone who has read these comments to open their eyes to the connection between the legacy of protecting public health and safety and the “newer” old problem of Bullying and Mobbing. Please consider the dire need for protecting the vulnerable populations in Subsidized Housing, and pass S604, or legislation that provides comparable protection and remediation.