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.