Last Thursday, a property management company sent me a letter that stated they could not rent to me because I had a felony in one or more of the categories they searched. I spent the weekend on the couch; physically ill thinking that life will always be a struggle. I do not ever remember not fighting to survive. My earliest memories are of praying for death. Suicide is always a constant companion—sometimes stronger and at other times a wisp of a thought.
This morning I checked my email and a friend sent me a link to the NPR article, Denying Housing Over Criminal Record May Be Discrimination, Feds Say, by Camila Domonoske. I sent the article to the Executive Vice President of the property management company—the woman who had sent me the letter stating I had been denied housing in a building they manage without even knowing why I went to prison.
As soon as she received the email she called me and said, “It doesn’t matter to us why we do not rent to criminals. We have a blanket policy.” I literally cried as I tried to explain my charges. She responded, “We don’t need to know your charges we do not rent to criminals.” I asked, “Will you please reconsider?” She responded, “No. We are not discriminating against you. Our company policy is that we do not rent any of the properties we manage to criminals.”
“Psst?” Suicide called to me. “It’s never gonna get better. Come and sleep forever in peace with me.”
I drank some coffee and pushed my constant lover “Suicide” to my shoulder and out of my ear and heart and took to social media. Then a co-worker, who knew nothing about what had just happened to me, sent out the HUD press release. Another friend sent me a Facebook response with a link to the complaint process and I completed the form and submitted it. I posted in a private Facebook group for prison reform and the posting was shared.
I called the organization that owns the apartment complex and left a voicemail and then sent them an email with the articles and press release attached. I sat with my supervisor who is also my friend Dalton Collins and I vented and held back tears. He told me that he cares about me and that I—and none of those returning from prison or currently incarcerated—do not deserve such treatment. Dalton is amazing and one of the kindest, most loving humans on this earth—he walks in Grace.
Yet, I kept hearing Suicide whispering. She refused to get behind me.
Then I received a voicemail and email from the Vice President of the property management company asking me to please call her. “Well,” she said, “I received a different report from HUD than what you sent me.” I interrupted, “No I sent you that one as a follow-up.” She continued, “Considering the new guidelines I have reconsidered your application and if you want the apartment you are approved.” I responded, “Yes. I still want it.”
Suicide whispered, “It’s not real. It won’t happen. I’m your safety net.”
Then she stated, without apology, “Timing was on your side.” I responded, as I brushed my lover Suicide off my shoulder, “No. God, Grace and Justice are on my side.” She said “Alrighty.” Then she gave me instructions on contacting the property manager and viewing the units available tomorrow.
Timing v. Suicide. Be careful what you say. Be careful how you treat people. Timing was on my side today, but not in the way the property manger believes. Timing of people walking this walk with those of us reentering society from prison I encounter daily through work and as friends, and many of those who work where I do, and yes social media—they give us time so we can hush the voices that tell us life is not worth living.
This is not about me. It is about us. “What will you do with your gifts?”