The Oracle Speaks: Jack & Jill in Erehwon Village
Lucy, the manager of Erehwon Village, a multifamily public housing facility for elderly and disabled, has received complaints about the couple, Jack and Jill, from Thomasina, Dick, and Hariette, the "Guardians," The "Guardians" are self-appointed overseers of life in the village and no one dares stand up to them. What should Lucy, the manager, do? The Oracle is silent on this problem, but she has received several responses.
Since there is no assigned parking, they can park where ever they want. They can ask nicely for Jack and Jill to park elsewhere, but it seems the horse as already left the barn on that parking space. Everyone always wants to park near their door, it is not worth arguing over a piece of pavement, just park in a different parking spot. I found out that residents that live in the complex the longest, have their own rules that they want new comers to follow, and that is problem. If there is proof that they are fugitives, that information needs to be reported to the police and the property manager. So the information can be given to the housing authority's lawyer for investigation also.
- Lucy must send out a blanket memo stating that there is no assigned parking for residents. So that it is clear, parking is for all the residents to park where they may.
- If Lucy has received a few complaints about Jack and Jill, being fugatives, then the police/lawyer need to be involved. Jack and Jill had to be vetted before moving in.
- Lucy needs to establish if the cookouts are being held in the common area of the complex, common areas are open to all residents. If the cookouts are by the residents apartment, they should just notify Lucy telling her they are having a private cook out for a few residents. Even though it not a big deal to share a hotdog and soda, the residents just need to state that the cookout is just for these few residents. Lucy will be aware when they cookout, in case any complaints come her way
Common spaces are for all, invite all and let them feed themselves. What's their problem, aside from they don't like newcomers.
Lucy, let all tenants get a letter, refer to lease regarding common areas: that common areas are for everyone. The housing authority owns the property and tenants don't have a right to exclude anyone.
Lucy, the director, has allowed the "Guardians" to take over. Therefore, the housing authority needs to tell the director about the rules.
Jack & Jill could address the Chairman of the Board. Complain about what it says in the lease. Oldtimers need to recognize the rights of others.
The case of Jack and Jill is deeply disturbing. It is really the horrifying story about the mobbing, selfish, and very small people around the two newcomers. Not willing to share parking space, especially to newcomers suffering pain, sounds uncomfortably familiar, as I have been there and been done that to. Hope their car tires don't start getting punctured, as mine did. Established, cliquish tenants are making up accusations based on vicious gossip and hearsay. I can speak to that as well.
Management first of all needs to insist on facts, not hearsay, as an accusation alone does not a fact make, and needs to set up some kind of mandatory meetings, arbitration. Some kind of independent investigation seems the ultimate solution to separate the true bullies from the hapless targets. Management needs to step in with experts right away. Especially if the target has been asking management for help from bullies from the start.
It is important to note that the bullies themselves will often claim to be the victim, and hold up the target as the perpetrator, frequently using the reverse accusation offensive tactic.
They will use going to court for a civil harassment prevention order just to freak out the real victim with their accusations, often the very things they themselves are doing to the victim, and their lies, their gaslighting, using the court as a form of harassment itself, will really hit their victims where it hurts.
When bullies falsely say horrible things about the target of the mobbing, their intent will be clearly to get rid of the person. "Why is that mentally ill person still living here?"
Whereas the actual "victim" will ask for mediation/arbitration right away, before things escalate. Their writings will emphasize wanting peace in the neighborhood, not that this "evil" person should be gotten rid of. A history of both party's written words, on record, needs to be closely examined and compared.
The Oracle speaks
The answer depends on who Lucy, the manager, is.
If Lucy has been the manager for some time, then Jack and Jill should write to the chair of the local housing authority and ask them to remind the manager that the common areas are for equal access by all tenants, and that management should not be enabling some tenants to gossip about or target other residents, and thus depriving peaceful enjoyment from their targets.
However, in this case, Lucy, an experienced and effective manager, had just taken over as manager at Erewhon, finally replacing a series of ineffective managers. The leaders of the town and even the elected state officials had expressed concern about the chaos in the housing complex. The housing authority had finally recognized that the situation had become toxic mobbing.
Those previous managers had failed to assure "peaceful enjoyment" and the absence of any clear leadership had created the space for the Guardians to step in and and create their own rules. While the stated intentions of the Guardians sounded good, namely to make Erehwon a peaceful and enjoyable community, they segregated the community into their friends and their enemies. They expected newcomers to respect their authority. And they had gotten the previous managers to support them.
Thus, from the first day that Jack and Jill arrived, Dick warned them not to park in certain spots. The Guardians did not admit Jack and Jill to their gatherings, either under the shade of the tree or in cookouts. And their exclusion of Jack and Jill was justified and reinforced by malicious gossip.
Perhaps the Guardians were made uncomfortable by Jill's disability. Was it a behavior health issue? Many people don't know how to relate and may react with fear, perhaps leading to accusations that the target is dangerous.
Lucy should NOT assume that the allegations of the complaint are a basis for action against Jack and Jill. Nothing in the complaints is against the lease. Is there a specific, objective report of any indication that either Jack or Jill poses a dangers to others? Lucy should ask the social worker to look into Jill's situation and make sure she is offered appropriate support for any behavioral health or other issues.
Lucy should require that complaints be submitted in writing and signed, and not accept verbal complaints that may simply be gossip. She should use a meeting for all tenants and/or a letter to all tenants that reminds people to avoid malicious gossip and that common areas are for all to use.
Lucy should have a talk with Thomasina, Dick, and Hariette and remind them of the ground rules as set forth in their lease. Activities in common areas must be open to all, and anyone can park where they like and sit with others. They must refrain from malicious gossip. And they must find a way to accept that residents cannot control who else lives in the community. Management is responsible for tenant selection, and this involves a careful background check.
Those are the first steps to put an end to mobbing, i.e., bullying that is allowed by management. The next steps should be directed towards engaging all residents in a partnership with management to create a more inclusive community. With careful monitoring, this could be a constructive way for the Guardians to use their organizational skills for the benefit of all, but without the use of bullying.
The Oracle awaits your questions.
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