Drowning in America
I am destined to become another of the uncounted, disenfranchised homeless in America. How I came to this point, on the verge of losing everything I
worked so hard for, can be chalked up, I suppose, to poor decisions made, in an unfaltering faith in what I have to offer.
There was a time when I was rich, by comparison to so many others, making sixty thousand dollars a year, and loving my work. 9/11, it turned out, had
a great impact on my life, for it was then that my life changed. The job I had at the time was a contract job, working for a company contracted to
the military, creating instructional software. The contract was up for renewal in September of 2001, but when those planes came crashing into those
Towers, military priorities changed and the contract was not renewed. The company I worked for had no place to put any of us on that contract, and I
found myself out in the post-9/11 job market. And that job market was pretty much devoid of jobs.
As head of household, I took my husband, an inventor who still is soliciting investors in his ideas, from town to town, from west coast to east,
seeking something that would support us in the manner to which we had become accustomed, dipping deeply into the money I had saved in my 401K to pay
for our daily survival. Finally, I took a job making far less – about a third – than I had been making before.
During this time, a miracle happened. At 45 years of age, I had a daughter, despite having been told I was infertile. She was (and is) all I could
have hoped for, having wished I could have children but having given up years before.
We settled down, struggling to make ends meet, in a small, poor, rural community not far from the little town where I worked. The job I had was
creating graphics and composing ads for a local paper, though my experience included much more than simple print ads, from video production to
animation. I was glad to have a job that allowed my creativity to flow.
We were happy, our little family, although we struggled to pay the bills. My daughter grew, proving to be very bright, funny and sweet. The love
between us was tangible. My husband continued to invent and solicit investors, hoping to take over the support of our family, while being a
Then, in late 2005, the paper I worked for was bought up by a corporation, and in February of 2006, I was laid off when the corporation decided to
move all graphics production out of state. Again, they had no place for those of us who worked at the paper. I was confident, though, that I would
find another job somewhere and was prepared to move to wherever such a job might be. I knew that I was unlikely to find a local job – the one I had
had was the only graphics job in the area, and with that gone, I had to look elsewhere. I haunted the Web, applying to job after job, averaging about
100 jobs a week.
I had a few nibbles, but because I was not local, I had many responses asking me to notify the employer (or the recruiter) when I moved to the town
they were in. Of course, I would not be moving to any area until I had a job there. And so it went.
The last of my savings covered the expenses, as the months drew on, and then my credit card. Still, I kept the faith. Someone would hire me today, I
told myself every morning, as I prepared to go online. I have so much to offer, after all.
But still, no one hired me.
And then the day came when the money to pay on the credit card was gone, my account was overdrawn, and they cut off my credit. The fear that struck
me then is indescribable, knowing that I could no longer effectively support the most precious thing in my life: my family. And in pure agony, I
made the choice to send my little sweetness, my daughter, then four and a half, to live with my sister 3000 miles away.
And still, I had faith. This would be for only a month or two, I knew. I just knew.
My family had helped where they could, of course, but by this point, they were tapped out, and I was on my own. First the state-required inspection
sticker expired on my car, and I had no money to pay for its renewal. Then, my driver’s license and passport expired, and I could not renew them.
I had no money.
My husband couldn’t (and still can’t) get a job to help out. He had let his driver’s license lapse years ago, not driving and not needing the
document, and in the intervening years, the state requirements to get a valid one have become prohibitive. He does not have the “points” he
needs. All utilities are in my name, he has no bank accounts, no pay stubs, nothing but his birth certificate, his Social Security card, and the
expired license. And no money to pay the fees, anyway. And without a valid license (or ID, which requires the same “points”), he cannot legally
The landlords, bless them, were so very kind. The rent was unpaid, month after month, and they remained patient. They loved us as tenants, as we
never caused issues and (until the money ran dry) paid our rent faithfully. The phone went unpaid, and was cut off. The utilities were close to
being shut off, but one small gem of fortune came in the form of HEAP, a program to help the poor pay for their heat and electricity. The utilities
were paid… For a while.
But as for any other assistance, I did not have all the records required to satisfy Social Services. Without a phone, without money, I struggled to
get the records they wanted. I’m still missing stuff they require. So much for emergency assistance.
The local food pantry has kept my husband and me fed… I suppose I am grateful for the wilted lettuce and out-of-date products, but I ache for a
fresh garden salad. My weight and health are moving away from optimal on the starch-rich and vitamin-poor diet, but at least I have something to fill
the void that would otherwise be there.
My husband baby-sits for a neighbor every now and then, allowing us to put a few gallons of gas in the old car. The car is a requirement. I have to
have it to get the four miles, up a steep hill, to the library where I look for work and he looks for investors. We have no internet access at home,
of course. The car, however, is no good to take me to interviews now. I cannot buy the gas it would take to get there, and the car has been so
neglected in its maintenance that I cannot trust it to take me very far.
(continued next post)