This title jumped out at me as I headed for the library elevator. It followed me home. By page two I was hooked.
Brianna Karp writes a candid memoir about her life and her homelessness. It is a topic that captures my interest for obvious reasons. Not only is it a candid memoir that I can’t help but love, it also deals with a topic that looms large on the horizon.
At school, while the students were taking a test, I pulled this book out of my bag and was soon lost in reading. The teacher, a fellow reader, expressed interest in my choice of reading material. I showed her the title to which she replied,
“Are you thinking about becoming homeless?”
My first thought was how did she know? Is it that obvious? I quickly regained some level of composure and said with a smile,
My fellow book lover had no idea that I was being truthful and that I have a great personal interest in Ms. Karp’s account. I’ve been busy mentally filing important pieces of info. The teacher has no idea how poor I really am. On a good day, I’m a middle class impostor.
This middle class impostor is going to break her cover. I’m going to be really open about my financial situation. Like so many other people I’ve been embarrassed to admit that we are poor and really struggling. I haven’t wanted other people’s pity although there are times when I’ll accept what I can get. Being poor can do that to you.
I also don’t want to complain or imply that my life is a total unhappy train wreck. No one is more surprised to discover that there are many things that make me happy and there are many things and people in my life that I consider a great blessing. It is possible to be miserable and still have lots of things that make me laugh or smile. There are quiet moments when I know peace and a deep sense of satisfaction. Those moments are priceless. I know that sounds a little crazy but it is probably the reason I haven’t gone crazy.
After going out on a limb recently and writing with more emotional honesty and then reading Brianna Karp’s book, I decided to write about some of the real problems that occupy my time and energy. I find the words just flying off my fingers tips. Apparently, they feel like they’ve got something to say.
None of this may be of interest to you but with Bank of America ringing our phone about every 20 minutes during the day, I’d be an idiot to not take the possibility of seeking out Walmart parking lots as a possible haven as serious business.
I’ve eaten, breathed, dreamed about and tangoed with the problems of not earning enough money to keep a roof over our heads for too long now. I’ve explored options, sent out resumes, looked for jobs overseas teaching English. Hey, I’d even clean toilets. (My age is often a problem here. . . that and the fact that two children and a husband are part of the package.) I’ve sold almost every thing of value.
I’ve written letters to the Department of Urban Affairs and to all my Congress people and Senators. Only Maria Cantwell responded. It was a general form letter that said nothing but it was a response.
I’ve explored third party mediators, tracked down HUD workshops, talked with other homeowners who have lost their homes. Homelessness still looms. My spirit is weakening. It longs to get off the grid. It longs to find a way to get around the system, a system that feels more like a noose than a lifeline. Memories of a boy in a childhood book who carved out a living space in an old tree call to me now with nostalgic sweetness. Truth is that tree would be crowded, wet and cold. It was never a sane option.
Sanity, it would seem is a rare thing indeed. Let me give you an example.
Currently, I work 15 hours a week. I qualify for a little unemployment. . . $60 a week which buys gas to get to my job. Since I am only paid once a month and my pay check covers about a week of normal expenses, this $60 gas money is pretty important.
My job is broken up by lots of vacations and/or days off. This is not a bad thing in itself. If money were no issue, I’d be thrilled. It is an issue so thrilled doesn’t come close. In the questionable wisdom of the state some vacation days are eligible for unemployment but others are not. The person on the end of the phone could not tell me why. She said, “I have no clue.”
I have been informed that the state overpaid me $398 for the holiday break which is not eligible. Since there was only 2 weeks of work in December, I earned $ 379.50 by working. This is the gross amount. Unemployment billed me $398. I owe the state more money for the month than I earned. They will accept monthly payments of $66. If I do not make a payment in the next two months, they were pursue other avenues of collection. Once upon a time that would really shake me up. Now, not so much. You really can’t get blood from a turnip. It’s almost amusing to see people try so hard, even when you are the turnip. I could laugh so hard I could cry.
If I write a check for $66 based on what is left in the account for the month of March, (Please note the date: March 7th.) we will not be able to pay for the car insurance or renew the tags on the vehicle I need to get back and forth to work. Imagine what a ticket and a fine might do to the budget. At some point, the state will demand payment for my month of impossible living. I can look forward to having my wages garnished unless I can come up with the cash in the next few months. Honestly, I’ve got much bigger problems to occupy my time. I’m a turnip. Take me now!
(Tomorrow, the second installment in which I admit to being middle-aged and destitute.)