Friday, July 4, 2014
When you're homeless, you feel helpless. Sometimes, all we can do is listen. That's what I've been doing - a lot of listening.
Being a homeless and affordable housing advocate, not an elected official or government administrator, I have no real power to effect change; So, I do the next best thing: I listen.
I listened to a friend of mine, who told me she entered into an agreement with #HUD to do her time at a federally funded rehab facility; Promising to get clean, go to classes, volunteer at the facility, and - eventually help others on their road to sobriety.
The prize at the end of the rainbow was supposed to be movement out of that facility, and into transitional housing - then, ultimately - to a place of her own. That was 7 years ago; Although it was only supposed to be a temporary situation, it's turned into a morass of hell for her. She's sober. She's completed her volunteer work, she's helped more than her fair share of people see the light and comfort of sobriety. She's done. But, what happened to the promised transitional housing? Didn't happen. The apartment? Disappeared. 7 years later, she's still stuck in that same, depressing environment, for a seemingly endless amount of time - without hope. I asked her: "How did this happen?! What have you done to let them know that you're ready to move on?" She says she doesn't know. They make promise after empty promise: 'Not this year, maybe next.... Not this year, maybe next...' She says she's written letters to HUD. At first, nice, patient and logical: 'This is what you asked me to do... This is what I've done...', to now: Angry, impatient and demanding.
It should be no surprise to anyone familiar with HUD that they broke the promise they made to her. It should be no surprise to anyone familiar with local politics, that they kind of like her where she is - she is a useful and effective tool for the sober house she's employed by, now. It should be no surprise to anyone familiar with the Section 8 program that there are no houses, no vouchers, no nothing forthcoming - for YEARS.
When I talk to a group of people - it's almost like a contest: 'Whose Been on the HUD Wait-List The Longest?'. We all know the game, and it's rules: Apply, wait, re-apply - because - of course they 'lost' your original application. So, you do that, and the clock resets back to day one. Re-apply, and wait. Re-apply, and follow-up with phone inquiries. Wait, wait, wait... Then - wait some more. But, there's hope: If you know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody who works for the Section 8 Program - you might get bumped up the list. If you're related to somebody who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody - you'll get bumped up a little bit farther. Section 8 vouchers are equivalent to the Golden Ticket in Willy Wonkas' Chocolate Factory.
Your rent is supposedly calculated using a sophisticated (and often non-sensical) formula: A debt-to-income ratio caps your rent at no more than 30%-40% of your gross income. But, some places 'accidentally' miscalculate it, including such things as Social Security, Veterans disability payments, and Child Support as 'income'. But, be that as it may - the vouchers are supposed to give us the stability, safety and peace of mind not to have to worry about how we're gonna pay the rent next month. They're supposed to provide security. Except, I've also listened to many people who say that Section 8 landlords are the worst to rent from. They already 'accept' you, knowing you have nowhere else to go, and probably no one else to rent from. So, in their twisted minds - that gives them license to treat you like shit, and there's no one in government to disabuse them of that notion. Landlord/Tenant laws be damned - invariably, they harass and stalk you till the cows come home. But, it's such a "great government program", that I love to hear about all of it's 'benefits', so - I keep listening...
TO BE CONTINUED.........