Each of our Residents has a story. Their life’s road to living in a supportive residential setting like ours is usually strewn with physical and mental illness, generational poverty, discrimination and lack of opportunity, trauma, addiction and yes, sometimes violence. But they are very rarely violent, in fact they are more likely to be the victims of violence then to commit acts of violence. And they are not their pasts. Media representations would have you believe that they hurt people – but they are the hurt people. They come to us from all different paths, and we meet them where they are in their journey. And we do what we can, with very limited resources, to help them.
Mr. Ziegler came to us as a senior with dementia. He does not go outside because he is afraid to get lost. Because he has gotten lost. We make sure he does not get lost, and we make sure he has everything he needs as a senior with dementia living in our home. When we were made aware of Mr. Ziegler’s past (and yes, we were unaware of his past when we ran the GoFundMe Campaign), we were shocked. We were shocked because we only know the man he is today, the sweet, kind and loving soul that we showed to the public in hopes they would help get him replacements for his lost dentures. We were then saddened to think that the family of the victim of his crime may see the publicity around the campaign and be hurt by it. But that can be my only regret. My job, our job, at Victoria Manor is to take care of people who struggle to care for themselves. Regardless of his past, he needed help – and we would have been as committed to getting him dentures knowing his past as we had been not knowing, we just would have opted for a less public effort.
Our Residents are people, though the outside world looking in often devalues them to a secondary class; like all people they make good choices and they make bad choices. Our job here is not to judge them, we do not to make care plans based on some moral hierarchy – we care for them as they are here and now. I often say our home exists below the cracks, collecting the many who have fallen through. Our community can have many cracks.
We believe in rehabilitation. We believe that people who have served their time are as deserving of our support as anyone else who comes to us for help. It is our responsibility as a society to ensure our most vulnerable are cared for; you don’t have to like them to understand that they still need our help. That’s what we do here at Victoria Manor. We cannot change his past, but we are changing his present, and for Leigh, today, that means eating a good meal with his new dentures.