The title is misleading, I’m totally not on welfare.
My blog seems to be leaning more towards a place I come to vent than what it was initially meant for. We can’t always predict how things will evolve or what they will become.
I live in government housing and I do receive food stamp benefits, I’m on disability, my kids receive SSI because of that, both my kids and I are on Medicaid, my husband is in the county indigent care network and I did recently apply for disability for my youngest son who has PVL and spastic cerebral palsy. I guess all of this kind of jams my family and me into the “moochers” category; thus explains the title of this post. But this is actually about my PoS neighbors.
I didn’t want to live in housing. My husband and I probably could have qualified years before the stroke but we decided to work and push ourselves into a shallow debt with credit cards to help us make it through each month instead. Everyone around me at the time kept saying to apply but we never did. We had a little thing white people like to call “pride” when really it’s a thing more correctly called “stigmatized shame.” Anyway, I had the stroke and it left me disabled. The hospital I was in applied for disability for me. I kind of hoped it wouldn’t go through because I knew it would make me “lazy.” I hoped that without the assistance I would maintain a sort of gumption to improve my physical disability. Turns out, even with help, it’s really hard. I was approved in what is considered a near-record six months. Why is that a near-record? Because after you apply there’s a mandatory 5 month wait period. I don’t know the purpose of the wait but it exists.
After the shock of the initial stroke wore off and I was finished with all the surgeries, before we had the baby and before the disability was approved, we applied for housing. Everything was really difficult. Money was so tight it was non-existent. My husband tried to work but he already had a crappy job through this place called Labor Ready where they place you each day but you have to apply for a position every single day. Sometimes there’s not enough work for everyone in line and he’d come home with slumped shoulders knowing he’d have to ask his mom to ask her church for more donations to help us. Housing saved us. It’s a program that is necessary because there are people who truly need it. People like us. All of my savings went to the cause of my stroke. Motel rooms for my family, gas, things for our son who was not meant to go without. Yes, some of it was frivolous and irresponsible and in retrospect things could/should have been done differently to save a few bucks but what’s done is done. It just would have taken a little more time to end us financially anyway.
Being in housing had afforded us the “luxury” of avoiding paying for a healthcare worker to come to my house to help with me and our newborn son who was born only a couple of weeks before we moved in. Kasper stayed home so there was no need for daycare. He could have gone out for a job, I know you’re thinking this. But there is a choice: Have the tax payers pay for daycare, rent and food stamps as well as my healthcare and possibly TANF OR keep Kasper home to do it all himself and only have taxpayers pay for food and partial (most of) rent. My disability is income so we do pay a very small sliver of rent. We felt like we were doing a service to taxpayers! I still agree with this decision. I don’t agree with daycare, most of the workers don’t go to school to learn to take care of the babies. There’s no real standards they have to follow. I’ve seen my sisters kids go through daycare, I’ve heard the complaints, seen her kids come home dirty, missing clothes and diapers and formula because the workers used them for other kids whose parents didn’t bring what they were supposed to. I’ve seen the rashes and in some cases bruises because they are not watched or changed like they should be. You get my point by now, I’m sure.
To top it off, I was severely depressed and suicidal the first year after my stroke. I started my blog at the very end of this stage in my recovery. I was angry and hostile to Kasper who was very patient with me. I can’t say whether or not I would have been treated the same with a home health worker. I can’t say, if left alone, I would have survived this stage. Kasper wanted me committed, it was that bad. But his patience persevered and I survived and I owe it all to him. My second hero (Skas is my first).
Let’s talk about housing in general. When you apply and are accepted, you have to go through policy interviews. You sign all these forms they explain to you. There’s so many rules it’s hard to remember them all. They ask you about your criminal history, people you know and family members and other possible visitors. You don’t have to list them or anything, just give an idea of them. I’m a pretty average person and though my husband is a convicted felon, it’s been over ten years and it wasn’t anything violent or drug related. You can’t live in housing with conviction of drug crimes. You get three strikes while a resident and you get booted but if one strike involves drugs, you are evicted that day. If you have a visitor that gets arrested on the property, you get a strike; if the crime was drug or gang related, you get kicked out. The property manager was very explicit about who you know and how it affects you directly. If you are arrested off property for a drug crime: grounds for eviction. You have to report all income; no one can live in your apartment more than ten days or you have to add them to the lease. Anyone over 18 must work and report income unless disabled, serving community service or a full-time student. I’ve learned, in the three years that we’ve been here, they don’t follow these rules anymore than the residents do.
Two doors down from us, there is a woman with a daughter and I can’t figure out why she still has custody of her. She’s really dirty, always covered in bug bites, and is severely underweight. Her mother is…I’m a feminist, okay, but I can’t help but say this chick is a slut. It goes against what I believe in but this chick just can’t take care of herself. Men are always coming and going, moving in and moving out. It’s none of my business and they usually stay about a month before the cops are here escorting them off the property.
There are tons of ways to report fraud for every government assistance program out there but there’s a problem: no one apparently likes to do the paperwork. I’m not a tattle-tale but I’ll sound like one by the end of this post. Your business is your own but there are times where that little bit of Republican left in me from my mother reminds me that fiscal responsibility extends beyond the politicians and into the hands of civilians. You see someone committing fraud, abusing the system, you need to report it because it comes back to all of us. How many people would like to pay less in taxes but also keep social programs open and available? You may vote for those trying to end the programs to save taxes but lose your job and see if you’re not in line looking for food stamps within six months of job searching only to find closed doors and an empty market. You’ll be thankful these programs exist, trust me. In order to keep these programs, it’s up to us to help make sure the abuse is minimal; you have to watch your neighbors the same way a suburban cul-de-sac keeps an eye on theirs. The only difference is they are helping each other not to get robbed; we need to make sure our neighbors aren’t robbing.
Two doors down, she got arrested about a year ago – strike one. Her boyfriend moved out that same day. Within a week, she had ten people living with her. You think I’m lying or exaggerating and I’m not. I’m really, literally not. I’m probably under-exaggerating because I’m only counting adults; they all had kids with them. One of the things in this property is each door has two dead bolts. Housing and maintenance has one to key to one of the two locks for each door. If they come to your house and find the top bolt locked, they know you are home and if you deny entrance, it’s a strike against you. Maintenance must have access to your home at all times. They send notices for pest control, routine check-ups like changing A/C filters, if you are home and don’t let them in during those times, you get fined. If cops have to come assist a check-up, say because a neighbor told the main office you had 10+ people living with you, and you don’t open and that top bolt is locked on both doors, you get a strike. This happened on two occasions – that should have been 3 strikes. She had a woman living with her, not shy about her presence regardless of the fact that she was a previous resident that bailed the night before rent was due. She left her apartment with old furniture in it too. Bailing automatically means you are banned from the property as a resident but here she was living with 2 doors down openly. Maintenance tried to catch her but they kept those bolts locked when they’d come knocking. Eventually a cop got to her and she is permanently prohibited from entering the property. Should have been another strike if not straight eviction.
Last month, here’s where I finally got truly upset and turned into a “white snitch” (by the way two doors down is some sort of white/Mexican, I don’t know. She’s light-skinned that’s all I know). She started dating this black guy, he moved in. It seemed like a normal thing they had going on. But then traffic started picking up. People would park in the fire lane for roughly 5-10 minutes then leave. It was still quiet, we kept to our own business. Then we started noticing people hanging around outside early in the morning. Just standing around out there being creepy. Then people started hanging around the building at night. Then fights were starting in the parking lot. Then people would leave their apartment and come over to our side of the building where they’d disappear. One night, Skas ran out of his room, he heard voices outside his window. A man (a very thin, tall black man) was sitting on the A/C unit under his window. Creepy. We notified maintenance and the front office of the activity and all around creepiness of it. There’s nothing they can do. One day I’m doing dishes and I look up and see two dudes walking to a car parked in the first parking spot. Totally casual. One is Mexican, the other a black dude I never seen before. He has this bright red doo-rag on, very noticeable. The Mexican is pacing and on the phone. Doo-rag disappears towards two doors over. He comes back within seconds, leans against the car and opens a tiny square packet of paper. CONFIRMED. It’s a crack house. I can’t report what I don’t know, just activity and even with this I know it’s just speculation despite however many crack neighborhoods I’ve lived in and how many dimes I bought from people whose main business was crack sales. I’m no fool, I may be a skinny white girl but I’m no fool. You don’t come from the places I’ve been and survive clean and sober without knowing what and who to avoid, the signs to look out for.
That was it, Skas was no longer allowed outside. This is personally affecting my family now. Sorry, I have to butt in. We know people who know people. We get some connections to monitor the apartment, mark traffic. Within two weeks, she’s put in jail. Yay, this means it’s over, right? Oh hell no! The boyfriend and his partner are breaking into the apartment every single night. The traffic slows to foot traffic only but it’s still present. There’s nothing we can do; no one is there in the day, the office “can’t” do anything despite the fact they have security cameras all over the place. The neighbor is freaking out, she hears noises, bumping, voices all night. Kasper goes to check it out and he ends up nailing all the windows shut followed by our neighbors windows as well. Within the hour, Skas comes running out of his room, “There’s banging, there’s banging!” Turns out they had kicked in the door, completely trashed the place, robbed it of what little was there and then they beg not to call the cops because they were homeless. Worse crack dealers ever.
The office didn’t even know she had been in jail until we told them we called the cops after the door was kicked in and why wasn’t home. The chick from that apartment still has her apartment and her daughter and even a new boyfriend living with her now that she’s out of jail.
Let me tell you about the other neighbor. There are two types of system abusers I’ve met so far. The type two doors down who keeps getting away with everything and anything and then there’s Marvel’s family who know every damn loophole in the system. I don’t know their full story, just what he has told us and randomly picked up details. His wife, KareBear, has 4 kids; one is his. The oldest moved out just after his 18th birthday a couple of months ago. In housing there are exemptions from rent: the ones I listed and you can also be exempt from worker requirements if you work on the committee. All you do is sit in on meetings and pass out the fliers that say when toys for tots is coming up, when GED assistance classes are approaching, job training courses are starting and dates for pest control. Housing offers a lot of ways to get out of housing but no one seems to utilize the tools and courses they offer. It’s really frustrating to witness all the waste.
In order to continue with her rent free housing, according to Marvel, he is not listed as a resident though he very clearly lives here. He has two vehicles parked in front of their building, he is here every morning and night and yet…this is allowed? Maybe because she is on the committee? He had two jobs. Both were restaurant jobs where he slipped up and revealed that at the full-time job he made 12 bucks an hour. I don’t know the pay at the other job, he ended up fired anyway. Now he has a job working sales in a rent-to-own type of place. They receive food stamps, she also gets welfare and child support. The youngest son is supposedly not on the lease so Marvel can claim him for taxes. Do you see the growing list of loopholes they found? She doesn’t work, she spends all day shopping online. How do I know? Because Marvel is always complaining about the credit card bills he can’t pay off. They have food delivered to their house from pizza places, chinese, whatever. Sometimes the Chili’s car is out there, too. Excuse me for judging, but I think they need to be kicked out. He obviously can work. She is just lazy and abusing the system all over. But you go to report it and a few things happen: you get a heavy sigh like “what now” and “crap, more paperwork I won’t file.” You’re redirected to a number that will tell you you called the wrong people and get redirected to another number that tells you to report it to the state only to be told it’s a federal issue that they don’t handle! Or, you’re told to write it down and what happens? Absolutely nothing.
I look at my crappy situation. I don’t want to be here but a horrible incident I couldn’t control gave us no choice. While we are here, we are paying down our debt. Because of this, making more than minimum payments on credit card bills and whatnot, we have little to no extra spending money. School shopping, christmas, birthdays all mean minimum payments only. Medicare deductible means: no A/C that month to cut back on electricity, no new anything and making as little trips as possible about town to save money from gas (Medicaid picks up the monthly deductible I only make one payment a year for Part B plan). I sacrifice a new toothbrush when I need one so I can get the boys theirs and I use mine until the bristles lose all of that blue strip. I use my shampoo until there’s nothing left, my husband uses powder when he can to save on deodorant (I have strong body chemistry, it’s wise for me to get deo when I need it). My point is, we go out of our way, we go without things to make room for things we absolutely need. It won’t be long before I’m separating 2-ply toilet paper to make it last longer. And here we have people straight up abusing the system and all of these “report fraud” outlets are worthless, useless or the people in the chairs, on the other end of the line make you feel like a “snitch” or like a horrible person for trying to protect the system. I don’t “tell on” everything or everyone. If I did, I’d never leave that damn office.
The system needs restructuring in the worst way. I’m tired of being grouped together with people like Marvel’s family and 2 doors down because people refuse to do their job and shift responsibility around until people finally give up. How many people like my family are struggling while on a wait list because no one wants the paperwork to handle 2 doors down or because families like Marvel’s prove legislators like Paul Ryan aren’t entirely wrong? There is no real systems check and I witness that first-hand but because I’m white as well as a 47%-er, no one will listen to me. I’m just a snitch and you know what they say: