There is a persistent message conveyed at Pathways Employment Center at Main & Hastings: Abuse is tolerated.
The DTES Enquirer just got a report of yet another abuse incident at Pathways. The woman who reported it was still trembling. This morning, she and another woman and about ten men had been quietly working at computers in the Pathways Computer room. A man wearing sun glasses as he worked on his computer on this overcast rainy day suddenly leaned over and screamed in the ear of one of the women: Why don’t you just shut the fuck up!”. She jumped, she was so startled. She hadn’t been talking, just typing.
The woman went to tell a staff person. “I think he was psychotic," she said. But a staff person, who would later identify herself as Lana, was already on her way into the room, apparently having heard the outburst from her office.
A male witness at a computer on the other side of the room commented when Lana arrived that he too had been startled by the man’s unprovoked outburst. “I jumped off my seat”, he said.
Lana then did what Pathways, including Director Carol Madsen, has gained a reputation for doing: she covered for the abuser.
She told the screamer he could continue working at his computer. She suggested that the woman in whose ear he had screamed find herself another computer. The woman said, “I think the abuser should be asked to go elsewhere, not me.” Lana remained firm. She justified her decision by saying, "He's not doing it any more."
“Could I have your name please,” the woman said to Lana. (She did not know her name at the time.) Lana was reluctant to give her name. After the woman asked three times, she finally gave her name: Lana. "I don't know if it was her real name or not," the woman said, so she described her as having short dark brown hair, medium height, slightly plump, and wearing a green v-neck sweater. The woman asked Lana if she was willing to give her last name.
Then Lana did what povertarians do best.
In a calm voice, she said, “Are you trying to create conflict?” Downtown Eastside residents are onto this tactic. When they speak up about misconduct on the part of a povertarian, the povertarian immediately attempts to present them as a person who is out of line, a person creating conflict or acting like a troublemaker.
Then the man who had screamed earlier lit into Lana. He yelled that she was a “f*cking c*nt”. Lana told him he could still stay and work on his computer. Lana, who by this time was looking like a candidate for a diagnosis of Battered Women’s Syndrome, again told the woman he had screamed at that she could possibly find a computer in the other room. “I’m still shaking,” the woman told Lana as she was closing down the windows on her computer. But Lana was standing by her man.
Then Lana spotted something that she could not overlook. She saw pornography on the man’s computer screen. “That’s it,” she said, “You have to go. Three strikes.”
“So she admitted there had been two previous strikes,” I said, when the woman and a male witness were giving me their account of events. The woman was still trembling when I spoke to her. Not all the men in the computer room minimized this incident the way Lana had. One guy asked the woman, “Are you ok?”
Mr. Three Strikes Your Out did not go gently into the street. He blew up at Lana, calling her a “f*cking c*nt, f*cking this, f*cking that" and telling her she shouldn't use the term "three strikes". He was physically aggressive as he pushed past the table and chairs in the computer room and turned back to tear another strip out of Lana. Afterwards, another woman who had not yet been involved piped up, “I hid in the corner.” Lana said in a calm voice, “That was probably a good idea.”
When the woman – the one who had emerged from hiding in the corner – said she didn’t want them to let that guy come back. Lana again said in a soft voice, “We try to serve everybody.”
Pathways Employment Center: a billion abusers served.