Dorian Hargrove 8 p.m., Dec. 11
"And so it goes on, and on, and on... It's Heaven And Hell...oh, well!"
--Black Sabbath (RJ Dio Version) from the title track of HEAVEN AND HELL
In one of my essays, I referred to a place in Outskirts Vista called "Board And Care Country." In this essay, I will elaborate on both the term, and the concept of what we mental health clients call "the living arraingments of last resort."
"Board And Care Country" is a section of Outskirts Vista bordered by Palmyra Avenue to the east (and running from north to south), Buena Creek Sprinter Station to the west, and South Santa Fe Avenue being the main road from Vista to San Marcos.
I became acquainted with "Board-And-Care Country" back in 1996, when I was hospitalized in the Mental Health Unit at Tri-City Medical Center. My psychiatrist basicly told me that I was either going to have to move into a "board-and-care," or I would have to find another doc.
So, in April of 1996, I moved into Alex's Room-And-Board. It was right on South Santa Fe Avenue. I stayed there until September 1997, when I moved to Palomar Manor in Escondido. It was a learning experience for me--and one I'd just as soon not have undergone.
The concept of the "Board And Care" home (no matter what it is called) is simple. Your typical home is geared towards those whose functioning level is much lower, be it from developmental disabilities, mental illness, or substance abuse.
It's a miileu-type living situation, where between six-to-fifteen adults live two to a room (same-sex occupancy only). Three meals are provided each day in the "you snooze--you lose" format (if you let the staff know that you will be late, they'll save you a plate). You get your laundry done by the staff.
However, such a "life" is not one to be sought. Along with the "three hots, a cot, and clean clothes," you also have to fork over a huge chunk of cash for the privilage of "living there." This is where the differences in level come in.
"Licensed" Board-And-Cares operate under a license issued by the State Department of Consumer Affairs. They are designed for low-to-mid functioning clients, and the regulations are much stricter. Each resident gets a physical exam before becoming a resident. They also have strict curfew rules, and must pass inspection by the County Department Of Public Health and the Fire Marshal's Office.
It's not a cheap place to live, either. The going rate was $1200/month for a licensed Board-and-Care. Compared with $650/800 month for an unlicensed one's monthly rent? This isn't a bargain --but some folks need more supervision than making sure the rent is paid each month.
Most Licensed B&C residents are on Supplemental Security Income programs (most with payees handling their cash). The SSI stipend goes directly to the operator, while the resident is alloted $100/mo for basic needs.
Unlicensed Board-And-Cares have cheaper living costs, but you have to be able to function well enough to take your prescribed meds, make sure your monthly rent is paid, and follow the house rules. In both places, drinking and drugging are grounds for a 72-hour eviction notice, enforced by the Sheriff's Department if needed.
What is it like living in one? Pal, this isn't living--it's mere existence! You may have your clothes, food, and housing needs met, but the boredom is stultifying! Most of the residents smoke (heavily), and the amount of funds left after paying your rent doesn't allow you much of a good time.
A "cigarette economy " often flourishes in these places. For non-smokers (and cigar smokers, like myself), out prescence puts a monkey wrench into that concept. However, mooches are prolific in such an economy--always taking and never giving back.
Even after six months in such a place, you want out and back into "the real world." The quality of the food is moderate-to-ipaecac, most relying heavily on starch and sugars, with low levels of protein and fiber--one good reason to seek other accomodations.
For ,me, it was easy. Since I did not have a conservator (and I still do not), I could pop out when I found something better. However, a lot of B&C residents are under legal conservatorship (this means someone else manages their personal affairs, via court order).
These folks cannot move without permission of their conservator. Usually, those on conservatorship are low-to-mid level in functioning, and there is often a need to have somebody "look after them." So, it's likely these folks will be trapped in the "B&C Lifestyle" until they join the dead.
I lived at Alex's until September of 1997. In August of 2006, I ended up in Brian's (across the street) after my stay at Turning Point. Same stuff, different place (and it went co-ed the following year). When this place opened up, I jumped at it
I still pass through B&C Country on the Sprinter (or the 305 East). It beats the streets, but I'd rather live where I am now, thank you. Still, I do thank Alex and Brian for taking me in when they did.
Here's to ya, Buds! --RKJ