As someone who ran a trap house for a time, let me tell you... it's a thankless job.
People you've never met appear out of nowhere. They move in. They bring their belongings (of which they often have a lot).
They build doors out of found objects. They mount hinged locks on doors in your basement and other random places throughout your house. You suddenly find entire sections of your house locked off to you. Who knows what goes on behind those doors.
Then their friends start showing up. People you don't know bringing other people you don't know into your house. They move in. They bring their stuff. And their pitbull dog comes too. (It's always a pitbull.)
The pitbull is sweet. But he torments the cats. (Did I forget to mention we also now shelter stray cats?)
And if you are a creative soul, like me, when they ask you if they can "paint" you say sure. A creative outlet might be nice.
The painting is usually large sayings spray painted in the living room and all the bedrooms. It's usually in black. (I don't know if black is the only spray paint they can find. Or if it's all part of the larger artistic plan.)
Heaven forbid the heat goes out in the winter. You can't pay to repair the furnace right away. Did I forgot to tell you that none of these people pay rent? But never fear... they have a plan.
If they get their hands on a kerosene heater, they'll use that to warm the house. But invariably they will not use it correctly and your entire house will now be covered in a thin black smoke colored shade of dark grey soot adding the finishing touches to the black spray paint art decorating your entire house.
But indoor campfires are also completely acceptable forms of heat.
The windows are now all covered in old blankets nailed to the wall. This serves two purposes... it insulates the house to help keep whatever toxic heating device is being used to provide as much warmth as possible. And, of course, it provides that added benefit of keeping prying eyes out of the house.
[Edit: I forgot to mention that these covered windows now make the entire house pitch black when the electric is turned off. So, it could be a bright sunny day outside. But inside your trap house it's a pitch black freezing cave.]
Invariably, the police will come. But everyone is under strict rules to never open the door to police. (That can sometimes backfire. Police sometimes have legal, legitimate reasons for you to open the door.)
If this was the end of the story, believe it or not, things would be manageable. But it's not the end of the story. Far from it.
This just sets the stage for what comes next. The illegal shit.
No matter how many times you beg and plead to not allow drugs to be bought and sold in your house, drugs WILL be bought and sold in your house.
The entire neighborhood will know. I once had the crack smokers who lived next door come and complain to me because they didn't want to be living next door to opiate shooters.
Everyone hates the opiate shooters. "No slow just go" is a common tag line of tent communities and abandoned houses in my neighborhood. It means that you are welcome to do meth but if you are doing opiates you are going to get kicked out.
Opiate users overdose. That brings EMS. And EMS brings police. And EVERYONE hates the police.
Police run warrants. And warrants lead to arrests. Most of my friends have warrants. But that's another story.
But it's not just the drugs. It's the prostitution rings. And it's not just the prostitution rings. It's the prostitution scams.
In my house I had a woman who ran a scam where she would go to the university which is just a few blocks down the street, she'd find an unsuspecting mark, she'd bring him back to my house (what kind of college boy idiot would walk into my house and think it was a good idea is beyond me) and start the process of having sex for money with him.
Then out of nowhere her "uncle" would barge in the door. (It was really her boyfriend) He'd start screaming that she was underage and this guy was in huge trouble. He was going to call the cops (yeah right). (This woman was cute and all. But to think she's underage is a bit of a stretch. (None of us could believe that story held up.) But who knows. My trap house looked scary as shit and her boyfriend was terrifying looking in his own right.)
Then they shake the guy down for whatever they could get out of him.
It was mostly innocent enough. No one typically got hurt. And they could usually make a few hundred dollars by taking the guy to the atm at the next door Dollar Store.
But of course, one day they screwed up a perfectly good scam.
This time their mark was a 17 year old white boy. Society hates when the poors fuck with the upper class 17 year old whites.
There were 3 people involved in this scam. The police were superiorly pissed off with these people. I think the woman left town. I don't know what happened to her boyfriend. And the other guy is still wearing an ankle bracelet a few years later, I think.
That's probably the most exciting story out of that house. Although I have some other close runners up.
And the trash. The fucking trash.
There are two annoying characteristics of some meth users. One is the incessant talking. I mean they just talk and talk and talk. It will make you go insane. And the other is endless dumpster diving. Meth makes you think that a shopping cart with 2 wheels is the greatest find of your life. You just need to find two more wheels and it will be good as new. Of course you never find the two wheels because there are so many other "greatest finds of your life" to be had. So the junk just piles up in your house and in your yard and in your driveway.
Have I painted a good enough picture of a certain kind of trap house? Do you feel the angst and frustration and sisyphean endless struggle of running a trap house?
I'm telling you: it is truly God's work.
Because while these people can be annoying and frustrating and confoundingly exasperating, they have to go somewhere. Trust me, you don't want them living in the abandoned house next to you. And you really don't want them in the tent village down the road.
You need someone who is willing to deal with their shit and try the best they can to make some sort of structure out of it.
Yes, the prostitute scam people needed to go. That's a little too much.
But drug users. Really? Do you really want to pay to lock them up in prison?
You can debate me all day on this point, but I believe sex workers and drugs should be decriminalized. The war on drugs has got to be the biggest failure of anything America has ever done. And it does nothing other than break up families and pull people out of society so we don't have to deal with them. And then there is the money. The war on drugs makes people rich. That's the only reason it still is in existence. It's a way for rich people to syphon money off the government so they can get more rich.
Yes. I have seen people come out of jail sober (if they chose not to do drugs in jail). But because they got no treatment in jail they are back to their regularly scheduled programming within a week. Drug treatment programs work. Jail does not work.
And in case you have never been a slave to a drug like I have and MANY other people have, let me tell you... you only quit when you are ready. You can't force a person to quit. You can't shame a person into quitting. And there is no "rock bottom" for houseless people. Free fall just becomes a way of life.
A trap house is the product of a society that shuns and condemns addicts. It is a "serious" crime to have drugs on your person. This infuriates me as booze can be found in every gas station, grocery store and drug store in America. There is no more hypocritical policy than this.
You can get blind drunk as often as you want in America. But somehow pot is a schedule 1 drug. Madness!
Other, more rational countries, are now providing Supervised Injection Sites.
The health risks of IV drug use are extreme — 130 people die from an overdose every day in the United States. External link The lifetime risk of dying from an opioid overdose is greater than that of a car collision: External link 1 in 96 versus 1 in 103.
There are about 100 safe injection sites throughout Canada, Australia and Europe. The Netherlands have the most — almost 40 injection sites throughout the country (PDF, 594 KB). External link But there are currently no sanctioned supervised injection sites in the United States. A December 2017 evaluation of drug consumption facilities External link discusses an unsanctioned site in the country that operates under the direction of an unnamed agency.
You can learn more about these here: Supervised Injection Sites Are Coming to the United States. Here’s What You Should Know. - Blog
So, because we are such a judgemental puritanical society we take care of our drug addicts in trap houses. Shit holes run by people that don't have the resources to do it well. But at least they do it when no one else will.
Philadelphia is the one lone city in America that is trying to get a safe injection site. But of course Americans won't have it: Plans for first US 'safe injection site' derailed again - BBC News
So, the truth and the reality get buried.
There are two houses on the east side of Akron doing this work. They take in the hardest cases. They feed them. They shelter them. They provide water, electric and heat. They actually do a much better job than I ever did. I was too much of a push over. My trap house was basically an abandoned house with spotty utilities. When I bought the house it was condemned and nothing was working. But people desperately wanted to move into it. (In fact, that's how I came to own a trap house in the first place. Friends of mine were freezing, living outside with no shelter and my house with no utilities was WAY better than where they currently were staying. They just showed up one day and I let them stay.)
I was inspired to write this story today because one of these trap houses is closing. The person running it has had enough. He's moving on. Managing these people with these addictions and mental illnesses and all this lifetime of emotional baggage is SO hard. But thank God a few people do it.
At the end of this month there are now going to be about 12 people that will be sent into the wind. And do you know what's going to happen to them?
They are going to move into the woods. They are going to throw all their trash all over the place because they have no trash service. They are going to shit where ever they want because they have no toilets. And their needles are going to be strewn all over our parks and sidewalks because no one is going to go around cleaning up behind them.
They are going to get hungry because we can't find them to feed them. So they are going to steal food from local stores. They are going to become more isolated. They are going to feel more rejected. So their addictions and mental health issues are going to get worse.
So there's the truth. I get that you hate addicts and homeless people. But which scenario do you hate more? Do you hate them doing drugs in a house where they have rudimentary services? Or do you hate them doing drugs behind your churches, behind your schools and in your parks? You have to pick. You can't lock up all the addicts. You just can't physically do it.
I have this dream of Akron being the Recovery City of America. I mean we are the home of AA, after all. It would be SO incredible if we had the first Safe Injection Site in America. But of course we don't have leadership with anywhere near that level of vision. We just get parks with splash pads.
To the man that served the addicts and lost and forgotten and shunned so well in Middlebury, Akron Ohio... Thank you for all you have done for our friends. You are a true hero. I'm glad you are taking care of yourself and moving on. You did the work that no one else is willing to do.
And to all the people that are currently running trap houses... thank you for your work. Stay safe. Let me know if you need any Narcan. I also have access to some cots if you need them. And if I can, I'll bring you food when I have it available.