It is not easy to sit and write while I am having to do the work of the so-called housing ‘specialists’ who want me to find out if properties have planning permission and permits, who want me to chase across SF on wild goose chases, and then still put barriers in the way and tell me that I could end up out on the street anyway. Going round in Kafkaesque circles of demands for things they know I do not have that they demand I have, but they refuse to give me, even when they could issue the very city ID they are asking for, and they said they didn’t need. “Get this. You can’t have this. You don’t need it. Obtain it.” My head is swimming with impossibilities.
The thing is the demands they put on people, the rules and the regulations, the wild goose chases, and the burden, it is enough to make people who are already under stress, lose their shit and get crazy. Once they get angry, get frustrated, get mad, get even, get upset, then these needy people are kicked off programs, removed, and denied service. It is a quick and cheap way to put pressure on people and then not have to get them housed. It is a game to stick labels on people which write them off as ‘unhelpable’ whilst piling on pressure and stress, impossibilities and games in an endless cycle of shit. Fact is there is not enough money to help everyone, and they have to get rid of some of us somehow, so the Powers That Be set people up to fail. It’s the only way they can pretend like they are getting somewhere, getting people off their books.
The avalanche of evictions of families from this shelter continues unabated. People are thrown out for whatever infraction can be dreamt up, just to get them out of here. These people still have need, still have families still have children. They still are homeless, they are just not the problem of this shelter, and to be frank, there is very little provision for families who are homeless in the Bay Area. I see people outside, in tents, in San Francisco with children. I see very young teens homeless and clearly addicted. I see the elderly, the disabled, the non-neurotypical all struggling with homelessness, while overpriced apartments sit empty. I myself need a hand up out of the quicksand of poverty and homelessness. What happened to me was so drastic that to recover, to build a life, to be stable financially, to be able to get in a home, is a near impossibility. I probably should not even be alive. It is a miracle I have my Boy.
If I cannot find an apartment within 90 days, I lose my subsidy, I go to the back of the line for help – another one of their tricks to get people off their list of responsibilities. Despite this demand, I am not being assisted in finding suitable accommodation that will accept me, I am on my own. Today I have to go off to Golden Gate Park area and look at an apartment, do all the leg work and still the subsidy people said they have the right to say it is not acceptable to them because it is a basement apartment ,but they cannot say for sure. So I have to waste time, go walking for hours and hours – it is a long long way – on the off chance someone at both ends of the deal says yes to somewhere I would have been happy to take sight unseen. Color me unhappy.
I have a real chance to make it as a writer, I am working very hard to realize my goals and dreams, and damnit, to get to the point where I can look after the Boy, and he is not looking out of a dirty window onto the broken Boulevard and the murders, the drug deals, the overdoses, the fights, the absolute misery of it all, and feels like he has a hope for a future. I simply don’t have time right now to go walking for three hours across town, on a leg that needs quite desperate medical attention, on the off-chance that this place might be alright with the subsidy people who demanded I look at it anyway without giving me an answer on whether it meets their requirements. If the housing people could give me a “yes, it is acceptable, go look” or a “no, don’t bother” I would have appreciated it. Instead I get a ‘you must go look, but who the fuck knows”. I could sit down and cry. I am being set up to fail.
Thing is, I have self-control (to a point..to a point which is being reached and surpassed. I can almost hear my friends laughing before they even read this. Come on, guys, you know you love me really). There are people who are so far past pushed, who suffer with mental health issues that would simply freak out in a way that ruins their chances of getting into a home with their children. I have a better chance than the woman with bipolar who cannot cope with life as it is, and that is not ok. This is not even civilized. Where is the outrage? Is it easier to dismiss this nation’s homeless as authors of their own tragedy? From the Dust Bowl days, the desperate, hungry and homeless of this beautiful nation have been told to keep on moving, that there is no room, no jobs, no money, no succor, no food, no compassion.
I look at that photo of the city from the shoreline of the Presidio, and wonder why with $1800 a month subsidy for a year, I cannot find a 12 month lease on an apartment. Greed. Pure greed.
There is a certain grace in getting up and walking, in putting one foot in front of the other, in not giving in, not giving up. There is a certain dignity that The Man cannot take away from you, no matter how many times you get dragged down and pushed to the limits. No matter that the shelter is threatening to throw you out, or the housing help doesn’t help and threatens to take away your subsidy if you cannot find anywhere within 90 days, no matter your estranged husband is still tracking and tracing and trying to find you. No matter if your Boy sits crying in desperation to stay with his mother. No matter. Dignity is a blanket that covers the dirt and the shame, the fear and the isolation. It covers the compulsions to do things that you don’t want to do from people that exist only to control others in some strange fascist kick. I realized recently money is freedom. I want, I need to buy my freedom. I need to write my own happy ending.