What I's Like For A Disabled Man To
By Jim Scanlon
Jerry Bakken knew his time was coming to an end. He had been threatened with eviction from the Marie B. Freitas Senior Community but now judge Sutro had made an order of dispossession and Judges Dufficy, Ritchie and Adams had affirmed Sutro's order and denied his appeal even though his pro bono lawyer Carl Shapiro, an old man himself who can hardly walk, had said this would be a catastrophe. Carl had called him to let him know about the appeal Friday afternoon.
He had waited anxiously all day Saturday and when it didn't happen, he felt he was safe on Sunday, but now it was Monday and he was sure it would happen. What could he do? Jerry is 67 and has multiple sclerosis and a few other ailments he doesn't talk about. He can get about: he uses a cane a walker and a wheel chair, but he tires easily.
He hates it when he gets stressed out. He stays in his bed and doesn't want to face the world. He is only worried about his dog. Who can he get to take his dog? Will the dog go to the pound? And his bird? Maybe his neighbor will take the bird. The in-home health assistant is there. She is 70 and will have to work until she is 95 according to her. She lost all of her money in the stock market. He has moved most of his furniture so he won't lose it and now, under the covers, he wonders what will happen to him.
At 4 p.m. there is a knock on the door and he really gets scared. It is the Sheriff --- just one --- who has come to put him out in the street. He doesn't have a clear memory of what happened next. "I guess I lost it," he says from his hospital bed. He remembers screaming and crying and trying to get dressed until his urine pouch gets caught and he fell down.
He remembers being bound to a gurney and wheeled to an ambulance out by three Sheriffs. There was a quiet crowd of old folks watching as he was wheeled out. There are three Sheriff's cruisers and a red fire engine next to the ambulance. He has trouble breathing. His heart is pounding and racing. His heart never acted like this before. He said his blood pressure was way up, but the numbers he remembers don't seem that high.
Kaiser treats him well. After a few days a hospital social worker comes to see him. He is ready for discharge. He tells her he has no where to go. She seems puzzled. Over the next few days she comes back again and asks more questions. He starts worrying again. He didn't think Mercy Housing Corporation would put him in the street, but they did. Or at least they would have put him in the street if he hadn't gotten so upset and passed out. Would the social worker call the Sheriff and say "You brought him in. Now he is ready to go. Come pick him up!"
Jerry says the Kaiser worker is a "dynamo." She gets him into a homeless shelter in the Canal with the understanding that after a few days he would enter New Beginnings, a residence for people "in transition."
"He's doing fine," Mark, the Intake Worker says. He thinks a minute and says in answer to my question, "I guess it is a little unusual for us to get someone obviously disabled, but I did the intake on him and he will do fine here. But the dog is a first for us here. The dog is unusual."
Three girls, sisters probably, squabble over who got the biggest Dorito chips. The biggest won't let the smallest sit on the bench. "Mama!" the little one yells, and the big girl suddenly makes room.
Jerry says he is relieved and happy and wants to forget the nightmare of the past two years. "Every Friday," he says, "I'd get a threatening letter shoved under my door." and he emphasized the "under my door" by raising his voice and bending over. The letters ruined his weekends.
A few days later we heard of a 90 year old widow who is blind woman who was evicted from her home, a rental unit. If anyone has information about this woman would you please contact the Coastal Post.
We talked to one of Jerry's former neighbors. "I am sorry for what they did to Jerry! He was a wonderful neighbor." Another witness to the expulsion said, "They call it 'Mercy Housing', I call it 'Mercy-Less'." This neighbor complains about threatening letters from management placed "under the door" instead of in the mail.
A friend of Jerry's who was at the eviction said, "You are in a free country and then you see what the police can do to you and you wonder if you are next"