I sat with my cold on unpadded metal seats for an hour and a half today at the Department of Health and Human Services so that I could meet with a case worker for four minutes and say \”So, Health and Human Services doesn\’t care about preventing homelessness; it will only work with people once they are homeless?\”1
And she responded, \”No, but you managed to avoid homelessness last month [May], so we can\’t help you anymore.\”
To which I said, \”But it\’s a good thing I managed to avoid being homeless again! And after three months of waiting through the bureaucratic paperwork processes from HOC [Section 8 housing], they didn\’t even inspect my apartment for approval until the day after my old lease ended — which wasn\’t my fault, I met all their deadlines — so I would have been homeless if my current landlord hadn\’t agreed to let me move in right away and pay the second half of the security deposit later.\”
To which she replied, \”Well, it\’s good that you got situated, but because you managed to go without being homeless, we can\’t help you.\”
\”But if I can\’t pay the second half of the security deposit, I will be homeless.\”
\”Then we can help you.\”
\”So, you guys don\’t actually work to prevent homelessness?\”
Long story short, several months ago HOC had told me that I qualified to have half my security deposit paid for by the state because my previous landlord decided to not renew my lease and put the condo on the market (days on the market: 75+ without a contract, losing money as it sits vacant). Buuuuut, apparently, even though the landlord and I met all the law requirements about my vacating, and because I have already moved (despite still owing on the security deposit), I no longer qualify. I am now $550 more in the red.
Gov\’t says: \”Says here you\’ve got $623 in your bank account.\”2
Says I: \”Well, it\’s the first of the month, my SSI went through last night, and none of May\’s utility bills have debited from the account yet.\”
Gov\’t says: \”You can work out a payment plan with your utilities so that you don\’t pay the balance every month. Do that, then you\’ll have enough money for your security deposit.\”
Says I: \”They don\’t accept payment plans on their required deposits to open new accounts, which is what I have to pay because I just moved. So May\’s utility bills total a little over $350.\”
Gov\’t says: \”Why aren\’t you on utility assistance payment programs [government subsidies with the utility companies]?\”
Says I: \”Because there\’s always a waiting list to get on them, they\’re underfunded as-is, and I\’ve always managed to pay my utility bills without the help, so I think other people deserve to get the program help more than I do.\”
Gov\’t says: \”You\’re that needy.\”
I says nothing, because I\’m silently fuming in disagreement. I don\’t get my heat from the pilot light in my stove and oven during the winter, and I\’m one of the lucky few in this world with air conditioning on Code Orange heat and air quality advisory days.
Gov\’t says: \”Even without the assistance programs, after your rent you\’ll still have enough money.\”
Says I: \”How? That\’s $220 left before next month\’s SSI check, plus $105 in monthly medical expenses and $239 in tuition is due before the end of the month.\”
Gov\’t says: \”We don\’t really take medical costs into consideration, and as for school, well, we all have our expenses.\” [They also don\’t take food or transportation into consideration.]
Says I: \”I\’m in school so I can get off public assistance in the future. But if I can\’t afford to pay my tuition, then how am I, currently on disability, ever going to get off public assistance? Because I\’m disabled, I don\’t qualify for a student loan, and I don\’t qualify for any credit cards because of declaring bankruptcy four years ago after the costs of disability — medical bills and more — put me into debt. And the government grants for school don\’t cover tuition debt from prior semesters.\”
Gov\’t says: Nothing, no direct response. But the Bush administration highly favors marriage as a solution to getting female public assistance recipients off welfare. Mighty cogent of them. Instead, Gov\’t says: \”We can\’t help you. You have to figure it out.\”
Fuck this federally mandated rules-vs.-state-vs.-county-vs.locally mandated rules which is powered by a constitutional republic and a capitalist economic system. Fuck it right in its choosing-to-be-deaf ears.
Sometimes I feel like democracy, civic responsibility and social well fare (not just welfare but actual well fare) are about as welcome around here as a goddamn STD. And I wish, wish, wish I knew how to make the bitch itch just half as much as it irritates me; just half.
Sometimes I honestly feel like the greatest revenge would be to stop trying to get off the system and just sit back and enjoy a free, bumpy ride. Just cruise along in my flapping, ill-fitting shoes and milk it, because they told me I could but they won\’t lift a fucking paper to show me how to stop. Assholes.
Footnotes: 1) Almost verbatim, that was the conversation.
2) That was how part of the conversation today unfolded, but it\’s paraphrased.