The Barriers to Stable Housing

I want to preface this post by saying thank you. You are giving us a chance at a place to live, and you all have been giving as much as you possibly can to help. That is tremendous. 29 people have contributed $3,720 to our moving fundraiser. That’s on average over $100 per person. Many of you have even waited for your next paychecks to donate a second or even third time – this hasn’t gone unnoticed. I am incredibly grateful to all of you for thinking of us in your budgets, giving as much as you can spare, even if it’s $1 or $5 a month on Patreon. It has meant survival in a broken system.

I wrote this post several hours ago in a moment of heightened frustration, anger, resentment, fear, and grief. There seems to be an inner world and outer world for me. The one that cares and the one that doesn’t. You have surrounded me as a community of support, while the rest of the world treats me with anonymity.

I still need to reach beyond the barriers I’m about to present in this post, because although I now have the funds to get past the hurdle of the immediate moving expenses – a truck, the application, rent, fees, and a deposit – I am now being told that I still don’t have sufficient income. It’s not enough that I’m making enough to cover rent with a roommate. We must make 3 or 4 times that much in a month. We are short. Like, $2,100 a month short. I need to do at least one of three things, and fast: (1) get a huge influx of Patreon pledges, (2) get a job working from home that allows me to balance caring for my partner, or (3) have someone with a bigger income co-sign our lease. But even if someone were to co-sign, they would have to make 5 times the rent after paying debts or mortgages, and they would be taking on the full brunt of landlord’s wrath if anything falls through. It’s a huge risk to ask someone to take. And it should never have to happen.

Our politicians thought we would go out and buy new cars with our pittance of $1,200, and I’m so poor it wouldn’t have been enough to help me acquire shelter. They are out of touch with reality. My reality is this: I’ve been on the phone for a month trying to find a simple apartment, and I’ve contacted every resource I can find for people who are on the edge of needing a place to live.

So, that said, I don’t know how to begin this except with saying my friends and I are mostly on the edge of homelessness.

Many would have you believe that we deserve this. We haven’t made something of ourselves. We haven’t worked the system in our favor. We haven’t manifested wealth into our lives by adhering to the appropriate beliefs and perspectives. There are so many things they believe we haven’t tried. Surely poverty is deserved.

Many people refuse to recognize that the world is divided between the exploited masses and the privileged few. No amount of factual evidence at the sheer extremity of the numbers will convince them. The reality is too brutal to face, I think. Thousands of people are dying of exposure in a violent form of slow, devastating, mentally crushing indifference we callously label “homelessness.”

I have lived in a car before. That is not an option this time. I don’t have a driver’s license anymore, it wasn’t worth the extra cost to keep it upgraded since I haven’t had the spare funds to acquire a vehicle in years. Even then, the car I lived in with my partner was falling apart and had to be carefully nursed on certain hills between the Target and QFC we each worked at. My partner couldn’t live in a car at all now. It’s not possible. Homelessness would kill him.

My partner is practically bedridden and requires attention and care – he can get to and from the bathroom, but not down the stairs in the middle of our shared apartment, so he can’t acquire food for himself. He can sit up for short periods of time if he’s careful not to overexert himself. If we could get just a tiny space, he still wouldn’t be able to stand long enough to prepare whole meals, but could at least get to and from the kitchen.

Not only does manual labor exacerbate my chronic nerve pain exponentially, but the only jobs I’ve been able to find in recent years have been in retail, and front-line work in a pandemic would put my partner at risk. I’ve been in search of remote work I can do from home, but so is everyone right now, and scams abound. The most consistent form of income I have is from my own writing, through Patreon.

We don’t expect to be able to have a space of our own, we’ve found a roommate who also lives how we need to – staying home and safe in the pandemic, and in need of an accessible place to live. They are disabled and receive benefits, as much as the government has determined they need to survive, which keeps them far below the poverty line. My partner doesn’t receive benefits yet, because he still doesn’t have an official diagnosis, though we’ve been seeking one for years.

Though it’s not a large income, I figured we would have a chance to get something small and cheap. Just a 2-bedroom apartment, so my partner and I can have privacy and so can our roommate. We’ve been raising the money we need to cover the hurdle of move-in costs.

In September, we decided to give ourselves another month, which required paying another round of rent and utilities here. All throughout October, I’ve been searching with dedication for the right place for us. Now it’s the end of the month, and I haven’t found anything that is inexpensive enough for our budget. I was also not expecting the income restrictions to have changed since last time I was in the market for an apartment – landlords now want tenants to make 3 or 4 times rent. Some companies work with co-signers, but for someone to qualify, they would have to make 5 times rent. I haven’t yet found anyone who would be able and willing to co-sign for us.

All of this is over having a place to live. Shelter. A basic human need.

Surely there are resources for disabled people, though, right? If you are literally incapable of making “enough” money, what happens to you?

I spent the past month on the phone trying to answer that question. The county housing authority waitlists are all closed. I’ve called every number I can find, and I have a new list to go through today. Nobody has resources and I’ve been told that our income is simply too low to get anything at all. Not because we can’t make rent, but because we need to make more than that.

In what the capitalists would call a society, hundreds of thousands of people face homelessness when they most need support, shelter, and care: when it becomes impossible to work anymore.

Proving to the government that you are in fact disabled is a lengthy process. After years of trying, I am finally past step one: I have a diagnosis. My partner still does not. Once you’re diagnosed, you must pursue treatment for a year, and the treatment must fail to put you back in the workforce. It would seem that nobody with resources cares how you’re going to keep shelter without an income during that time, least of all people who control rent prices. We need to get my partner a new doctor because the one we have, and the one before that, and the one before that, couldn’t figure out his diagnosis. After a diagnosis, he needs to prove he’s not recovering enough to work, and then we can seek a lawyer to get him the money the government owes him.

Poverty is not a choice. Everyone is more likely to be poor than rich. This is just my own personal experience of the broken system, but I have so many friends who are trying to get into stable housing. It seems to be just beyond reach, no matter how hard we try.

Moving for the Sake of Motion

The threat of homelessness is so terrifying, it’s what capitalists think is necessary to keep the world running. They aren’t wrong about its quality as a motivator – just as nobody wants to undergo torture, nobody wants to be homeless. Rather, it is incorrect to assume that anything can be done to fight the prospect of becoming homeless in such a rigged system. The only thing standing between you and becoming homeless is an emergency or two, unless you’re in the 0.1% and depending on what an emergency is to you. For me, an emergency is running out of food stamps halfway through the month, so I need to either spend what I can’t afford to or ask for money to cover the rest. Emergencies happen more frequently when you’re poor.

Moving while poor is an ordeal. The people with the privilege (and it is nothing more than a privilege) to own resources like housing and land regard us with suspicion. We must prove that we are willing to let our livelihoods flow up while lies about recovery trickle down. Almost every penny that passes through my hands is saved for the landlord, who doesn’t have to work. Landlords literally live off of other people’s hard-earned money, and yet capitalists refuse to look at them as “leeches” who “don’t contribute to the economy.” You see, the trick is that if you have money to buy your way in, nobody cares whether you’re working or not. If you don’t have money, what are you doing with your time? Get back to work!

Disability adds another layer – if you can’t work and you don’t have money, what are you good for to this society? The answer is nothing at all. Workplace problems are exacerbated outside the workplace, which is what the rest of us are trying to communicate to the so-called struggling middle class. If you think it’s hard to focus at work, imagine trying to find a job in a pandemic, or a place to live. Or the resources to take care of a sick loved one. My only job now is writing, which I get paid for through Patreon. It’s not a normal job and it’s not a regular paycheck (though it does come consistently once a month).

I keep saying that disability advocacy is the way forward, because so many of us need to be working shorter hours to keep up with technological advancements and resource management. If I could take a job that only expected time from me when I’m available and could work around my need to rest when I’m dealing with my own pain or my need to spend time taking care of my partner, I’d take it in a moment. Many, many people are in the same position and would do the same. The numbers are impossible to gather because chronic illness and disability are so vastly underdiagnosed. But when I say that I want the resources and work reorganized, I mean that I want to contribute as much as my life allows me to. Our society as it is right now says that if you can’t dedicate your life to your job, you don’t deserve to have a life at all. Either way, life is lost for those whose labor flows up into the pockets of the rich.

I say all this because I am in the midst of searching for a place to live, and it has come to my attention that many people do not know what this is like when you’re poor in the United States. Moving may be stressful for pretty much everyone, but it’s a nightmare when you don’t have stability. Every action carries the increasing threat of winding up homeless.

It’s the 19th of October, and I still do not have an apartment to move into in 12 days. The most difficult thing is trying to prove that you’ll pay your rent. Landlords can afford to be picky, all the more so with millions of evictions and people facing homelessness in this pandemic. We are not to be trusted – where do we get our income, and, therefore, their future source of money?

Housing should be free. Nobody should be profiting off the livelihood of human beings, the very need to take shelter from the elements. I say this, and yet I cannot escape the rent machine. I have no “real” job, no credit score, nothing to secure me even a thousand square feet of space to call home.

You have to make enough money to cover rent two, three, or four times over. This is hilarity for most of us. If the landlord is not satisfied with what we make, they can reject our application, which is another lost expense. If what we make is not enough, it is possible to get someone with wealth and resources to co-sign the lease. This would require that a person with money would be willing to risk it so we can get into stable housing, which is a lot to ask.

I haven’t been putting this off or waiting until the last minute. This is just how housing is when you’re in the market for a 2-bedroom apartment at the lowest available rates. In fact, this is one of the least stressful moving experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Thank you all so much for making that possible with your generosity.

This process has been stressful, and there is still so much left that needs to happen. This is yet another experience that has radicalized me, showing me that things don’t have to be this broken. There are better ways. We will need them very soon, as more and more people face homelessness and unstable housing.

This is a mere snapshot of what the process is like for those of us who are bargaining with few funds for a place to live.  

Demanding a Future

My sense of identity is so defined by my past. I want to look to the future, but all I see there is a fight, a time of hiding the vulnerable from conflict and climate change.

In looking to the future, I know what I will be doing personally. As a species, though, we need to work together to overthrow the entire system as it stands. What needs to happen is a full reconstruction of how we as humans live. This cannot happen under white leadership. It also can’t happen under abled, cishet leadership. Everything our culture has normalized and made into the default is exactly what needs to be dethroned and replaced. Capitalism can’t be saved. All labor must be completely re-delegated and reevaluated with an emphasis on maximizing one’s personal ability and willingness to contribute, instead of on maximizing profit. Free housing and food and clean water for all.

That’s the fantasy, anyway. My actual expectation is that we will rise up to the best of our ability and still be beaten down by the wealthy, who will let us all die at the doors of their luxury safe vaults, in the end trying to avoid exposure to a too-hot environment. Those who think they have class solidarity with the 0.01% will find themselves dead like the rest of us. The ultra-rich will live out their lives resenting us for not being around to do their cleaning and cooking anymore.

If things are basically hopeless, why not demand the radical? Why not go all the way and list the things we deserve while they are hungry for the profit of letting us die?

In this country, if you can work, your body is used for labor. If you can’t work, your body is cycled through a system that only does one thing efficiently: make money. Healthcare sends people in circles for years seeking diagnosis for disabilities while trying to remain housed. Don’t even get me started on our prison system. Or the school system.

There are still so many things I have to learn. Especially about how to organize. So I am learning. That is all I have for today.

Creative Flow (Futility Revisited)

I’ve just written over 800 words of stream-of-consciousness prose, and it will never see the light of day, thank you very much. Many people are concerned about me right now but this is about the same as it’s always been. By that I mean I’ve always dealt with depression. I used to live in denial of it, thinking I could chase the demons away with the power of prayer and positivity. Now I’m just more honest about it.

————-

Fractured writings and aching hands

From already pouring my heart out in words

Scribbled by hand with mistakes throughout

And typed in prose about the love I’m feeling

It’s not that I have nothing left to say, it’s that there is so much

And I don’t know what of it matters anymore

Only the absurd seems worthwhile to create

Who is there to convince?

————–

The past week has been exhausting. Someone close to me was in the ER, and I attended my first Zoom memorial service for someone who’d passed away, and my therapist had a death in the family so she canceled our session, and I’ve started looking for apartments and packing to move, all while trying to get back to writing so I can do my part to earn my way into regular housing.

Here is the problem I have been having with writing all day. The stuff I’m processing is really personal and I haven’t figured it out yet, or certain things need to happen before I can talk about it. What I can talk about right now is pretty depressing, but I am not any more depressed than usual. In fact, there is a very intense flicker of life in me. I must keep taking care of myself, cultivating my art, and providing for myself and my partner and others I care about.

I’ve been writing sad poetry about what I’m going through and what I’m confused about. I’ve been making some things that are too dark to share with any but a select audience. I’ve been painting a lot and sharing my work with friends and my Patreon patrons. I’d like to keep most of my paintings to a limited audience for now. I’ve also been co-writing fiction. It’s been a lot.

Okay, fine, I’ll put ONE painting here. This one’s called Dark Chest of Wonders, based on this song, and I’m really proud of it honestly:

Description: The painting has at its top center a white clock at midnight in a dark purple room. Below it is a wide black-framed window, with its 6-paned panels flung open to show a moonlit ocean view with stars in a dark blue sky, slightly illuminated by the moon and reflecting on the water. Below the window is an open treasure chest, filled with gold and copper coins and metallic purple and green gems, with purple and green swirls of magic coming up from it. Seeming to rise up out of the chest and landing in the center of the picture is a human-shaped silhouette with a short dress and long flowing hair, arms out as if ready to fly outside. In the center of the silhouette is a white heart.

I’ve already put out of a lot of creative energy today, but none of it was appropriate for sharing here. So today’s post will be short. Basically I’m processing a lot of complicated emotions. Not the least of which is dealing with watching my partner’s health and capabilities deteriorate at an alarming rate. All while the doctors shrug him off or blame him for his symptoms.

The big picture is too much to look at right now, mostly. I get the main headlines as much as anyone, numb to the growing death count and unable to comprehend the loss of how willing our so-called leaders were to sacrifice so many people for their wealth. I simply do not have the spare energy to unpack big questions in these posts. I can only keep making art, taking care of my partner, and asking for support in doing so.

Thank you all for your help in making it possible to keep my partner and me housed. We are trying to move into accessible housing that accommodates our disabilities. Please keep sharing the fundraiser! It helps so much.

That is all for today. Thank you all for your compassion and generosity.