Diary of a Mad Man

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

So when the board met, what was said about opening up the community room? "The board didn't respond one way or the other," Hom said.

Reached at home a few days later, Warren Foster, president of the board at Pecan Village, made it very clear who makes the decisions about Pecan Village. "Samuel Hom is actually running that.

"Sam is MHMRA. They run it. The only time the board gets involved is when they call a meeting."

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.

It's a neat sleight of hand that means no one is being held responsible for decisions made at the complex. Foster said the board usually meets about once a year (without the residents), that most business is handled over the phone, and that when he has to, he signs paperwork, which Hom prepares for him. Hom has declined to give the names of board members to residents; he says he needs to protect their privacy.

Asked about opening the community room, Foster said: "I don't know why it isn't opened more or why it has to be locked. I guess to keep expenses down."

Advocacy Inc. did investigate one resident's complaints and, as a result, has sent a letter to MHMRA.

But as Childs points out, several changes already have been made:

The off-your-porch-by-eight curfew has been rescinded.

Many of the needed repairs have been made.

The community room is still under negotiation.

Although the MHMRA day-care program in the area ended long ago, there's word that a new one operated by a competing agency may be opening up soon. This could provide some of the counseling and transportation support needed by residents.

David Clark didn't move out of Pecan Village after all. One of his prospective roommates couldn't get out of his present lease.

Still in place at Pecan Village, he has become a pariah, a man adrift.

"My neighbors won't even wave at me," he complains sadly. He says it's because they are afraid to talk to him, afraid that if Sam Hom thinks they're friends of his, they'll be tossed out of their apartments.

Clark had stopped paying his rent, rationalizing that he'd been mistreated. He's settling up now. His electricity was cut off more than once. He successfully argued that CenterPoint shouldn't be doing this to someone with a disability.

Despite all this, he's bought a car, saying he's tired of asking others for rides.

Some neighbors have said that they think Clark isn't stable and that they're staying away from him because he's so angry. Several say they support Sam Hom and the job he is doing. None of them wants trouble.

Most of the changes that still need to be made at the complex are no-brainers. Priority should be given to appointing a more involved board -- one that meets with residents more than once in three years.

The community room should be reopened. If someone misbehaves, then, just as in any other apartment complex, call the cops. A live-in custodian would probably help keep things kosher.

Sam Hom needs to cut down on the memo-writing.

The mentally ill residents of Pecan Village are asking that people trust them to live on their own. Our own government, by establishing such housing, says this is possible. These people's doctors say it is so. MHMRA endorses the concept when it sends over a manager for such a complex.

What's needed is a hefty dose of trust. Trust that the mentally ill can do the very thing that we pay lip service to -- the idea that they can establish a life on their own.

The irony, of course, is that in agitating for that right, David Clark may have lost the trust of everyone around him.

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