Diary of a Mad Man

Exploring the rights and wrongs of independent life for the mentally ill

This irritated Clark. As did the regular exterminator visits to each unit. Clark says these visits were carried out with little warning and that Hom was too quick to come in before determining whether someone was home. Hom says he sent out a memo about upcoming exterminations.

One woman, who doesn't want her name used, says she was lying on her couch napping when she heard a knock. She jumped up, but Hom and the maintenance man were already in her apartment. "It was a little quick," Hom agrees. He says that hasn't happened again.

This woman also says she got in a dispute with a neighbor and that Hom didn't respond to her complaint right away. When he did, she says, "He made us sign some papers saying whoever talked to the other would be kicked out. Like we were kids." She also says that Hom threatened her that if she had any more gripes she would have to ask special permission of him to have her grandchildren come over for visits at night.

David Clark says he's not being treated like a grown-up at Pecan Village Apartments.
Daniel Kramer
David Clark says he's not being treated like a grown-up at Pecan Village Apartments.

Clark complained that needed repairs were never getting done. The lock on his bathroom door went for months without being fixed. Hom says Clark agreed that it was a low priority, that he could get by with it as it was.

The crumpled brick facade didn't get fixed for six months. It was repaired the day after the Press came out and took photographs of the damage. Hom says that was just a coincidence, that it took a long time to work things out with the insurance company.

Hom also says other repairs were delayed because there's not a lot of money, that he tried to group them together to cut down costs, that he was waiting on a man from Houston who kept putting him off, and that he finally went with a local repairman.

To live in 8-11 housing, people like Clark must be able to prove two seemingly contradictory things. One is that yes, they are, well, nuts. The other is that they can live independently. They establish both with a letter from their psychiatrist.

Living independently is tricky for anyone on a limited income, but it's especially stressful for a group prone to mental and medical emergencies.

Some want complete independence and think Hom should only function as a normal apartment manager who takes care of maintenance problems. Others look to Hom for help in filling out governmental and medical forms and in settling disputes. For most it's a mixed bag -- they want help but not meddling.

Chance Hollis likes Hom and is one of the two residents entrusted with community room keys. "I think Sam is doing a bang-up job running this place," the young man says.

Clark, on the other hand, finds Hom's manner both stifling and inept.

He'd been in his apartment for several months when CenterPoint Energy told him they'd been billing the wrong apartment for his electricity use and that he owed $700 in back charges. He wants to know why Hom never noticed that the empty manager's apartment was being charged for Clark's electricity. He hadn't paid an electric bill himself for a while and didn't realize the $40 a month he was being charged was impossibly low.

He had an electrical fire in his apartment when the wires from the a/c and the heating unit were mixed. He says firefighters pulled the wires apart, but that they couldn't do the final repairs. That's never been done, he says.

Clark misses the support services he had at Tomball Pines, where a van would take residents shopping and to doctor's appointments. But there is no such arrangement at Pecan Village. Instead, residents with no cars pay those who have them $5 each way to take them where they need to go, he says.

Rose Childs, MHMRA deputy director, met with Hom and Clark in Clark's apartment recently. Voices were raised; Clark would ask Hom questions but was little inclined to listen for his explanations.

In fact, Clark was so mad, he announced that he was leaving. He'd had enough of subsidized housing, this in loco parentis, "which by the way is against the law."

Childs, a reassuring presence who has known Clark for years, wanted to know why he hadn't called her earlier. Well, he finally had.

With all the demand for housing for the mentally ill, Clark wanted to know, why has one two-bedroom apartment been vacant for more than a year? Hom said a two-bedroom is hard to fill. Childs said Baytown may be a less desirable location than Tomball.

Hom explained his reasons for an 8 p.m. curfew. Childs said if she were the manager, she "probably would have managed it a little differently. If that is a problem for the majority of the group, it can change."

"That would have to be a board decision," Hom corrected. Childs agreed.

Later, when discussing the limited access to the community room, Childs said, "If anyone wants a key, they can have a key."

"That would be a board decision," Hom said.

There had been a recent meeting of the MHMRA-appointed board of directors at the apartment complex. This was a major event, the first time the board had met with residents since the apartments opened three years ago. Clark missed it; he had to be hospitalized for adjustments to the implant he received to control his Parkinson's. He heard that Hom got three standing ovations.

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