Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Another Abuse Story from Pathways

Carol Madson, Manager of Pathways Employment Center on the Downtown Eastside, recently irked Downtown Eastsiders when she told the Vancouver Sun that job searchers at Pathways have major "self-esteem" and "anger" issues. Madson knows the buzz words that keep her funding coming, but the way she runs Pathways, it is difficult to go there on a regular basis without feeling angry or that their self-esteem had been eroded.

Today a woman around 40 years old was working on a resume when a guy about 22 years old got up from his computer and, according to her, "roughly" brushed by her. A dangling strap from his pack sack slapped her on the side of the face, over her eye. She said, "Hey, you hit me!" He said he had not. She said he had.

Then he began loudly telling his friends that he had "offended" the "little old lady". He was laughing and talking loudly so that she could hear. I believed what she told me because I have seen this ritual of demeaning commentary and laughter used by young guys in Pathways when I have dropped in there to talk to Bill Simpson (who has been barred from Carnegie across the street for free speech).

This verbal abuse is provided courtesy of the federal government. During today's incident, the woman told me, Pathways staff said nothing. It wasn't as though they didn't hear what was going on, she said, the guy had moved closer to them than to her when he was making his loud comments.

Ultimately the Manager, Carol Madson, is the problem. People know what will happen if they complaint to her; they will be seen as just another client with "issues"... anger, self esteem, mental health. Previously, the DTES Enquirer reported that a woman who was verbally abused at Pathways was dismissed by Madson who told her in a supercilious tone, "Have a nice day" -- a male witness corroborated her account. Madson, was busy with her kids at the time -- she still brings her kids to work although she hides them in her office now -- and did not want to be hassled with the realities of managing Pathways, the job she is being paid to do.

The Downtown Eastside Enquirer asked residents how the situation could be improved at Pathways. One regular user of Pathways says one solution would be to have the computer room supervisor, a guy around sixty years old, sit inside the room or closer to the door so that he is in a position to actually supervise. That would prevent other problems too, such as computers meant for job searches being occupied by people playing video games. But of course if punks couldn't play video games and poker, they wouldn't sign into Pathways and the numbers needed to justify funding would go down. And Madson has figured that out.

But what she and her federal government co-workers don't seem to have figured out is that verbal abuse is not an employable skill.