Disclaimer: I don’t want you guys to think I’m angry ALL THE TIME. I really am a nice loving person mostly. Or at least I try to be. It’s just been that kind of week, you know?
About three years ago when I was up to my eyeballs in medical bills and getting sicker and had no money or real friends to speak of (at least that I knew of), I was put on a list for section 8 housing assistance hoping that if things got worse it would prevent me from becoming temporarily homeless. Shortly after finally paying off all of my medical debt, spending the last year meeting people who I think would help me out if I really needed emotional or material support, and moving in with awesome roommates in a place that I can afford, I get a call. Not telling me I’m in, just asking if I wanted to be kept on the waiting list. It had been so long since I’d heard from them I didn’t even remember I was on a list. How messed up is THAT? What if things hadn’t changed for me? I’d still be on a useless list waiting for money and housing that probably doesn’t even exist at this point and might never exist in adequate quantities.
When the woman from social services asked me if I wanted to be kept on the list, I hesitated. If life has taught me nothing else, it’s that things can always get worse when you can least afford it. Did I really want to lose my place in this long line even though I currently have a good living situation? What if I get sick again or so depressed I forget to file some piece of paper that makes it so I can pay for food and rent and I really need help again?
After about a minute of stalling, I told her to take me off the list. There are people who probably need a place to live right now, and I’m fairly sure that unless I piss off everyone I know, I’ll never really be in danger of losing everything. Now just 10 minutes later, I’m doubting myself. What if…? And there it is. The reality of poverty is not just about not being able to satisfy immediate need, it’s basing every single choice you make on fear. There are people who still don’t have the luxury of even considering turning down any sort of possibility for assistance, and it hurts me to live in that world and see it every day. You want to know why I sometimes sound like an insane ranting pissed off “radical”? Why I want to stop people on the street and shake them and scream until they get it? This shit right here.
Now if you’ll excuse me I am going to take some of the disposable income I am lucky enough to have now and buy a tasty scone and some tea to quell my rage.