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He wanted to stay; worked there for about six months, until the arrival of summer. "I was content there. I was eager to wash those windows. It just got too hot."
A program to teach janitorial work on its face sounds like a good idea. But then you find out that for five years before Chevalier entered training, he'd worked as a janitor at night as part of the now-defunct Fairweather Program through the Tri-County Mental Health Authority in Conroe. There, he had performed the same chores that he supposedly was "learning" how to do for little more than a dollar an hour.
The ACT advisory group has pledged to help Mitchell raise money and to petition the legislature for the $250 monthly subsidy. Liberty Island's Johnson hopes it works. "I'd like to see some people try to live on $500 a month for food and board and everything," she says.
Living that close to the bone means the centers that house these people need extra help, Johnson says. The Houston Golf Association just gave Liberty Island $100,000 toward the $360,000 needed to replace the roof and put in new air conditioning, she says. The association told her it hopes this donation will inspire others to contribute.
Johnson says the owner of another personal-care home called her recently to say she was shutting down. She'd taken in nine mentally ill adults, with only their SSI checks. The woman told Johnson that "$4,500 a month isn't enough." She'd been advised she needed a new air-conditioning system, and there was no way she could pay for it, Johnson says. "She felt bad about those people sitting there without air conditioning, so she got them transferred to another home."
Mitchell says wryly: "You hear those stories. There's others in cases like that who don't shut down."
The number of personal-care homes has declined in Houston, Mitchell and Johnson agree. "They're either shutting down or getting worse or reopening up as an unlicensed facility," Mitchell says.
"I thought if I got more numbers, we'd be able to do it, but we can't," Johnson says. "I don't like to turn people away; in fact, if mental illness is their primary diagnosis, I won't. But $500 a month is not enough.
"We need help to maintain this," Johnson says. "We need the support of the community."
Community support and a minimal subsidy seem like much better choices than seeing more people thrown out on the streets, or living in hellholes where their $500 a month doesn't even provide them with a working toilet.