Friday, May 30, 2008

Entitlement: I Waited Too Long To Get Subsidized Housing.

It is Memorial Day and I am at the apartment of a disabled church member. He has had several strokes and can't work. He has a one bedroom apartment with a backyard for $520/Mo. I confess I got angry and jealous over his residence.

For $560/Mo. I live in a 14 foot x 14 foot room with a sink, no heat, closet, bathroom or kitchen. This is not subsidized housing. But with a bathroom down the hall, careful use of a small space heater, microwave, rice cooker, refrigerator and one of those hang-over-the-door closets I make out pretty well.

I have heard many times that with my 3 disabilities: legal blindness, Cerebral Palsy and a hearing loss, I qualify for subsidized housing. Yes, but millions of others do also, and there is a pecking order.

See we disabled folk decided to make it a law that we are to be "un-disabled" legally. So, when I apply for a job, they can't have a note in my file about my low vision, use of a walker, or anything that would make me "look" disabled. What this accomplishes is a two trip stage to not being hired.

I go for the "agency" interview. Since my file looks like everyone else's file I get a call for a job. If I don't have a little chat with the placement agent, I'd show up at the work site and would be sent home! It is much easier to tell the placing agent about my legal blindness and get hung up on, without wasting hours of my life to accomplish the same thing. Yes, its illegal and no, I'm not exaggerating.

Because people love getting something for one-third of its value, able-bodied people have legislated new ways of being "disabled". No more is it the standard, "visible" problems. Now drug/alcohol addiction, being grossly overweight, mentally ill and most diseases qualify for government housing.

Enter the lawyers, after the passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act. It used to be that a blind adult was allowed to reside with the elderly. No more, blindness is considered a high risk condition and we are now in lovely segregated "disabled only" buildings that are just the opposite of what "mainstreaming" and "liberation" were supposed to be about. 

It wasn't until the passing of the ADA that any landlord ever called me a "bad insurance risk". Now my toileting habits are up for discussion. Its hard on one's sense of self worth to have to explain in painful detail that I can go potty all alone, yes, both kinds and I know if I need to vomit, to go to the potty too!

So, back in 2001, I decided it was time to go after those lovely apartments everyone was saying were mine for the taking. Oh, how shocked I became after several months of this dreary adventure. I decided to go through a Social Worker, as I thought they had an "in". They don't, but me traipsing through their office insures they have a job.

Upon entering this Social Worker's office, I met a young lady who demonstrated how one survives a drive-by shooting in one's living room. I was so totally taken aback by this, I actually lay prone on her office floor as she explained how you lay flat on the ground until the shooting stops!

Still believing I had some rights in this melodrama I sarcastically informed her: "If you think I want a studio apartment bad enough to risk being shot in my own living room - lady you are crazy!" Bad client, naughty, no! Never assert yourself. You need to understand...

This lady then lectured me on my attitude. Oh sigh! She then handed me a three-inch thick sheaf of papers with two columns of addresses on each sheet. The ones marked "open" were the ones I could contact for possible housing.

99% of the apartments were "closed" or "non-disabled", or wouldn't take MY set of disabilities!
The several that were open were in neighborhoods the police attempt to avoid. No, no, I won't go! So after an attempt with another agency, yielding even nastier neighborhoods to live in, I gave up and prayed to God for the gratitude for what I had in 2001. A ghetto room where people pulled knives on you as you attempted to go to the bathroom. (They were free-basing at the time).

Within three months that building was condemned and I moved to my current middle class location with a high rent. BUT it is safe, quiet and clean. I wish I had more space, but again, it is safe, quiet, clean and I have sunlight most of the day through a beautiful window that actually looks out to the sky and not another building wall!

People at church have been pushing me to really go for getting better housing. I endured their: "you have no faith" lectures and did not re-enter the world of subsidized housing. Oh, need I forget, I'm 153,462 on one waiting list and #1, on a second. I always lose out to an incoming AIDS patient and I've been #1 for YEARS! I finally just let them all laps. After five years, what the hell?

But viewing my friend's this lovely little apartment on Memorial Day, hypnotized me back into the fray. I was given an emergency housing hotline for my county. The person who called for me told me that this agency requested me to call them, as: "... they were sure they could help you". NOT!

I connected to what sounded like a 911 call room. I gave my story and was begrudgingly given two phone numbers. All housing recommended to me was in towns 2 hours away from where I live. Of course, some of those same great enclaves of crime and violence came up also.

I have to ask myself: Where is it written that I am entitled to something MORE that I can't afford? The Government is already paying my general support plus almost $300 a month in free insurance and medication. It isn't like I'm on the street with a tin cup. What is so bad about having a bathroom and shower down the hall, when being in the hall is so safe, that people leave their doors unlocked while in the bathroom, or shower?

Once again I relearn that to plan ahead when one is on the system is silly. The man on the hot line was not impressed that I felt I was losing my ability to walk up and down the 30 stairs in this building. They aren't set up for THAT. So, I'll walk until I have to butt-walk and when it gets to the crawling stage, I'll be screwed-up enough that my HMO will enlist that Social Worker to "put" me somewhere. But by then, my mouth might be the only fully functioning organ in my body. I'm going back to being thankful for what I have and not pursuing the holy grail of a kitchen and toilet I can call my own.

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