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Drowning in America: A Letter from a Citizen

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posted on Feb, 3 2008 @ 01:14 PM
Drowning in America

February, 2008

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 stay-at-home dad.

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 be employed.

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)

posted on Feb, 3 2008 @ 01:15 PM
(continued from above)

And now we have an eviction notice. The landlords, bless their hearts, need the income from our apartment and have little choice. It’s been over six months.

And from where I sit now, with nowhere to go, nowhere to live, and all my belongings (meager though they be, cherished by me) likely to be lost to others or thrown away, I play with suicide in my mind.

The only thing that keeps me going is the promise I made to my daughter, when I sent her across the country, that the Awesome Family (as she calls us) would be together again. And I cannot break that promise. I cannot lose faith.

And so… Here I am, disgusted with the system that has let us down. Drowning in America, I persist, believing that somehow, someway, I will be given the opportunity I seek. I have to believe. There is no other choice.

posted on Feb, 3 2008 @ 03:43 PM
Your post really touched me. I've had to pull out my retirement funds for survival as well and it was very scary for me. I have never been in such a desperate situation as you, but I know that it's not impossible. It could happen to anyone.

Six months ago I decided to change my life and live as a minimalist. Over the years I spent tons of money on unnecessary things like nice furniture and clothing. That was a stupid thing to do. I'm making the same salary now as I did in 2002. Back then, I had so much money it was nothing to spend thousands of dollars a month on whatever I wanted. Today, I am lucky enough to pay the monthly bills and have some leftover to put into savings.

Everything can change so fast and with the direction our economy is taking now, my goal is to prepare for survival. I hope that things change for you soon and you can get your family back together. No one should have to experience what you have.

posted on Feb, 3 2008 @ 05:29 PM
Thank you, annestacey. I appreciate the good thoughts. [smile]

I think somehow I manages to post this in the wrong area... It has nothing to do with the avian flu. Trying to start totally new threads here is confusing. I thought I was posting this under "Current News" (or something like that). If a mod wants to move this to the best place for it, that's ok.

[edit to correct typos]

[edit on 2/3/2008 by Amaterasu]

posted on Feb, 3 2008 @ 06:16 PM
Yeah - I think you placed it in the wrong thread - but hey, I wouldn't have read it if you didn't!

I've was born in the UK, and I'm back here now, but I did live in the USA for a while. I also studied graphic design and also art, and went to college and art school; only to find there are no jobs in that field here now due to the explosion of broadband and out-sourcing to cheaper places like India. I have also been homeless - I was kicked out by my step-mother when I was in America and just 16.

What I have learnt though, and what I really would say to you is that if you let your mind get defeated then its all over. I don't have any qualifications to my name beyond college. I went to uni but left in the last year.. and my high school diploma is from America and next to useless in the UK, but I now run my own business, and I have worked with some of the top entrepreneurs in London. I did this because I didn't let the system beat my mind.

Apply for any job that sounds good. Don't even worry about what you are qualified in or have experience in. Just apply. When you don't hear back from them then call, or go and make yourself seen. Charm them; talk to them, blag, bend the truth but just make them like you. Then everything falls into place. Sure, many companies will only take people who tick all the right boxes on their forms - but believe me, I know from personal experience, there are still many people who will give you a break just because they like you.

So write down a list of all the stuff you are good at. All the qualities you have. Then go onto classified sites like Craigslist and Gumtree and post in the 'work wanted' section. Sell yourself... and keep posting. Let them call you. It can really work. I've done it. I've walked into a top London office, wearing a cheap second-hand suite whilst everyone else was in the smartest tailor made fashions, and I've got a job just because I talked no bull to the director. You seem like you can talk well; you write well anyway.

But just do not give up. Defeatism is the best way to loose. Others will pick up on it and then you won't get a chance.

For a start, right now think of the best business in your town; the one with the best offices or smartest building. Ask someone at the library to help you with a simple but effective CV - shouldn't be a problem to make it look cool with your background. Then swing by the place you are targetting and just tell them how much you have always been fascinated by what it is they do and hand them a CV while you are there... then keep chatting... its all in the chatting... talk the hindlegs of them and be passionate. Because thats the magic ingredient that can turn things around even when they have hit rock bottom - and its free.

Best of luck and feel free to email me from my site if you want to chat. There are people who care - its just finding them

Take care,

posted on Feb, 3 2008 @ 06:37 PM
Thanks for the pep-talk, arti. While I have the problem of the "biggest" place in town being a run-down old hotel (the other is an ice cream shop that is family run) that hires bartenders and servers (I have bad knees and can't keep the necessary pace for either of these jobs), and the nearest place of any size is over 20 miles away (and with no gas, that's an issue), I liked what you recommended regarding Craig's List. I never thought of that.

Actually, I have been applying every week for two years now to 100 - 150 jobs. Some of the jobs I knew I didn't completely fit the bill as stated, but I knew I could do them. I keep plugging. I am hoping to get a job in games - ala Halo and Jade Empire. Game companies pay for relo, as a rule. Few other companies will, and that's what I need now. I have no money to move on.

But really, I tell myself, over and over: I have more money than I can possibly use. I have forty-four million dollars.

The Secret, and all that. I know I will have an awesome job!

[edit on 2/3/2008 by Amaterasu]


posted on Feb, 3 2008 @ 08:48 PM
I dont mean to be rude but it sounds like your husband needs to get his head out of the clouds. You spent all of your savings traveling around America when you should have moved to a place that catered for your trade, not end up in some poor rural community, was that his idea too? At some point when you still had some money, your husband should have sorted hi ID situation and be employable. Nowhere in American history has it said that 'everything will always be fine'.

But all that is the past. So what, with future hindsight, do you think you should be doing now?

What is clearly horrible is that this can happen to you. In my country we have a support system that bumps up wages for families with children and getting a job doesnt require much money or effort, ie your story wouldnt happen as a legal citizen.

I think you should make a real plan that caters with current reality and stop chasing the dream and get your kid back as soon as you can.

posted on Feb, 3 2008 @ 09:25 PM
My suggestion is to move close to your daughter.
Even consider staying with your sister for a while or asking her to contact some of her friends to put you up.

Your husband 'can' get hired, it may not be the type of work he wants but hey its his time to help pull you both out of the sink hole you have found yourself in.
Think about it, even illegal aliens find work when they want to.

The other thing is stop wasting your time looking online for your next job. GO OUT there and just show up at the right place at the right time.

Again it may not be what your looking for, but there is ALWAYS work at your local convalescent hospitals (they even pay to train you) and if you are that desperate try housekeeping at the local hotels. They most certainly will not need up to date ID's.

I just get the feeling you are covering for and codependent with your spouse.

He may have been worth his weight in gold while you were working full time bringing in the bread, but face it those days are over and he needs to stop sponging off of life and you.

I understand what it is to love a lazy artistic man, but this is about your precious daughter and your own sanity.

If you are here on ATS you already know how important it is to be sharp and pay attention to detail in the world today.

If all else fails, look up your local churches for some advice.

posted on Feb, 3 2008 @ 10:03 PM
Oh my goodness, you could not get your passports renewed. I'm sure that was a sad day.

There are many ways to make a dollar. You could work in a restaurant on day shift and your hubby could work night or evening shift. You would not have to worry about day care then. I know working in food service may not be glamorous but it beats eating dirt.

Call me old fashioned but seems to me your hubby needs to get himself in gear and find employment.

I would scrub floors on my knees before I would let my family starve or go without the necessary services to survive.

Just this morning I was outside watching the birds start their morning hunt for food. The squirrels were right out there with them taking care of basic needs. My point workie no eatie. There are still jobs to do to make money. Might not be what you want to do for the rest of your life but it beats sitting around whining about no job and no money.

I mean you no disrespect but after working with the public for 40 years I've heard your story hundreds of times.

What kind of "papers" do you need to get assistance? Anything you would need is available but sometimes requires jumping through a few hoops. It is hard to believe you are unable to acquire the necessary information you need. If you need help in obtaining documents U2U me and I will help you.
Problems are only opportunities to exercise your brain and prove to yourself that you can correct and control your circumstances.

Sometimes we, and I certainly include myself, make poor choices. To overcome those choices we can learn to not continue to live with the results of those choices. All you need is a toe hold to climb out of the pit you've fallen in. It's just have to find it. You can do it.


posted on Feb, 4 2008 @ 05:31 AM
Hello all.

Amaterasu, I think this is a very moving story that you have. I can understand right where you're coming from. I'm sure that there's more than one member here that feels the same way, or has in their past.

I wanted to post here also to let you know that we've moved this thread to the General Chit Chat Area, as it will garner more responses in this area than in the Avian Flu Forum. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Forum Moderator

posted on Feb, 4 2008 @ 09:45 AM
I have to agree with dizzies post. I do feel for you, and mostly for the displacement of your daughter. It does sound like your husband needs to pull his head out, there is always money to be made somewhere. I have seen this happen in my family, my uncle was holding out for a job when his family desparetly needed him to work. But he thought that he just better hold out for a management posistion. I am sorry but when you have a family you do whatever you have to do, dig ditches, work fastfood, work your damn fingers to the bone, and break your back if that is what needs to be done. If I needed to for my wife and child I would work as many jobs as I had to, to make sure they had what they needed.

I dont mean to sound harsh, but sometimes you need to stop complaining and start doing. I know the world seems unfair sometimes, but that is when you need to start kicking ass and taking names. The longer you sit and dwell on your posisition, and dont make something happen the longer you will stay in it. It sounds like you guys have made mistakes, we all have, but you cant keep looking back at them, you have to look forward. Again I dont mean to sound harsh, but how can you get on the internet and relay your story to us if you have no money?

I truly am sorry for your situation, and I hope you and your husband find a way out of it, and get back to your awesome family.

posted on Feb, 4 2008 @ 02:59 PM
Thanks, Borg... I never visit BTS. LOL! All the interesting stuff is in ATS.

But this will do.

To those of you who recommend I do housekeeping, waitressing, etc. I have very bad knees and a rheumatological condition that leaves me in agonizing pain if I overwork a joint. I have to have something sit-downish. But I do appreciate the advice.

As for my husband... Yeah, well, what can I say? Telling him he "has to" do anything is a sure way to promote stubbornness. And he will not take himself away from his efforts to invent and to solicit investors. [shrug] Believe me, I have tried. He has been homeless before (unlike me) and so the prospect seems to have no impact on him.

I pretty much have to use the web for my work search. As I said, the community I live in has one hotel and one ice cream shop. In the nearby town, the biggest building is the elementary school, followed by the Catholic church, the Reform church and the Lutheran church (I am spiritual but not at all religious). I know the owner of the small bakery/lunchette there, but she only needs servers, and I just can't endure that anymore (I'm 51 years old). And I cannot afford the gas to get any further.

I tell you, it all rather sucketh.

But I am convinced that things are getting better as I type. [smile]

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