My life has telescoped of late into a Tiny Life. I haven’t really had a place to live since I lost my job 4 years ago but I did stay with my mom a few months. Then I got accepted to school in Canada and I thought I would get a student visa to live there with my boyfriend at the time.
Nope. Got turned away at the border because they thought I was defecting. No kidding. They saw a backseat with two suitcases and two boxes of food my mom gave me and suddenly I found myself detained for 3 hours and boom. I was kicked out of Canada for a defection plan I never even had.
My life is weird. It was probably for the best. The boyfriend ended up being a mistake. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. But…since I had no plan other than Canada and school (my student loan falling through was the next thing after my purported defection That Never Was), I suddenly found myself in Buffalo at the mercy of a friend. I stayed with her for a year. I didn’t mind. I’d lived in Buffalo before. Its a cool town. Tonawanda is different. Its pretty with the Erie Canal but boy. People love to drink there. Lots of bars. Pubs and holes in the wall, any kind of bar you want. All with grills. Beef on weck and chicken fingers are the thing. Buffalo thing.
Finally after a year of not being able to get any kind of a job with a future other than ending up an old waitress, I decided to hang it up and go home. A friend at home in Wisconsin offered to have me stay with her. Fine. Got a job transfer and I’m there.
Kind of. I’m home but while I was busy living my life for 25 years, Enbridge the oil pipeline folks moved in to my hometown and tripled the rents. 600.00 for a ROOM in a house. Plus deposit. Yeah. 1200.00 for a ROOM. Not a fancy room. A room in a house that looks like my Uncle Wallys place hasn’t been cleaned in a dozen years and the landlord wants to do a credit check on me for this princely dwelling and have me fill out a five page application like he’s renting a place in Trump Plaza, and boy he has People “waiting in line” for this dump he says in order to pressure me into taking it.
I’m thinking yeah I bet you do.
I wish I were exaggerating. 1 bedroom apartments in a town where everyone else who doesn’t work for Enbridge makes on average 30,000 a year (women on average make 22,000 so way less than the men), is 750.00 a month. Plus utilities. Plus deposit. Thats 1400 up front plus 900 a month for heat, rent and electric. Plus a 20.00 application fee that is non refundable. Of course.
I meet lots of people who room together. Never knew each other from Adam before this. But they have to live together to split the rent and utilities because they can’t afford a place on their own. Want a house? You’re looking at 1500.00 a month plus deposit. Yup. Hand over 3,000.00 please.
No fucking way. I think of all the short videos I’ve seen on Facebook of regular people like me having to live in tents and suddenly I understand why. I even tried to get government housing. I filled out something like 15 forms on which I had to detail every place I had lived the last two years. Because I lived with friends I had to get their landlord’s name and number. Most of their landlords hadnt even known I was there and it got so invasive, the personal information I was expected to get for the government, and the process so convoluted and long I eventually threw up my hands and gave up. Which was I suspect precisely what the guy administering the process for the US government wanted me to do. He kept telling me it was a year and a half waiting list for a government apartment, a two year waiting list for Section 8, which helps people pay rent, and the final straw came when he found out I’d had no utility bills the last 3 years. That’s how they track your payment worthiness you see. No utility bills? The government runs your credit before they approve you for a HUD house. Keep in mind this is poor people housing. Here is the catch 22. I didn’t have good credit because I went broke–I went broke because I lost my job due to budget cuts. I need good credit to get poor people housing. If it wasn’t so frustrating it would be laughable. People think if poverty happens to you that you can get all this “free stuff.” I’m here to tell you that doesn’t happen. What the government expects you to go through to get anything at all is humiliating, and convoluted and shaming. They make you ashamed for using what you paid for and paid into. And we have a government right now in which our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson wants to triple the rents for HUD housing you have to wait 2 years for and who you already pay a third of your income to. As if poor people like me don’t have enough challenges and as if we need the government, who really seems to hate poor people) piling on to what is already a situation they wouldn’t put up with if it happened to them. I find it ironic I pay his salary and he gets the health insurance his buddies in Congress enjoy and don’t want me to have, while he himself doesn’t want me to use my own tax money that I earned over 35 years for a place to live when life kicks me in the gut. But he gets to eat out in a nice place every night– and this is the same guy who tried to spend 133,000 of my money for new furniture for his fancy office that I paid for. But I’m the bad guy here for going broke through no fault of my own. I ask you what’s the point?
Oh yeah. The government official who administers the HUD housing, very smug in his nice shirt and tie did offer to pray for me.
So now I am one of them. The tent /car people. Except I bought a tiny camper that I was able to park in a mobile home lot for 450.00 a month. No deposit. I just saved 250.00 plus 600.00 for that room rigbt there. I just saved almost one thousand dollars and my little camper paid for itself instantly. It was 700.00.
I live in a camper. Or will do on Friday when the guy who sold it to me pulls it into town. My Honda is a great car but it has its limits and no towbar. Until Friday I live in my car.
I live in my car. I have to stop and shake my head to reconcile to myself the reality of where I am.
I live in my car. I have a job. Not a great one but enough to pay the bills. But not enough to get me one of those crappy old apartments for 800 a month or a dank room for 600 a month.
It hits me how fast this happened to me. I’m an educated person. I have two degrees and I was a teacher for six years in a high school and a college. I made more money at McDonald’s than I did in my teaching career. Irony of being a teacher in America.
All it took to get me here was the loss of that job after salary cuts with zero white collar job prospects in the tiny rural town I was living in at the time. Valentine, Nebraska. I took a job at a ranch supply store along with my McDonalds job and slowly watched myself go broke trying to pay rent and propane and electric and food and gas for the car for me and my kids. A job loss. That’s all it took for me to lose everything because 8.50 an hour pays nothing. 16.00 an hour between two jobs is little better but you lose your family time which meant I worked all the time and never saw my kids because they would be sleeping when I got home and in school during the day.
How far I fell and how fast. I went from sleeping in a bed to sleeping on an air mattress on the floor after I got my kids graduated and off to college. While I had the kids I had to sell everything to pay bills. I failed utterly to pay them even though I worked 50 hours a week. I had to get assistance for heat or freeze because the price of propane shot up to 4.00 a gallon. I had a 250 gallon tank. Electric went up in thr winter too. Gotta have electric to run the propane furnace. Yeah. You got it.
So when I hear some smug person with a good job and a husband with an income and a house tell me that all I have to do to succeed is work hard I just want to punch them in the face. I work harder than I ever have and I cant get ahead. I can’t catch a break no matter what I do. Ive been being educated about being poor. You wouldn’t believe how nasty people get when they see an EBT card in your hand.
Never mind I paid taxes for 35 years and I’ve never needed help before this. Never mind the economy is so bad for me I can’t get a job in my field or any field that pays well and has retirement and health insurance. I don’t know why. 230 resumes. Not one phone call or email. Not one.
People who say that shit don’t understand what they are talking about. What has happened to me despite my education and my hard work and the mystifying question with no answer as to why I haven’t been able to get a job after fielding 230 resumes nationwide in my field can happen to anyone.
It could happen to you.
I have my tiny home nobody can take from me. I don’t have to worry about rent increases. I don’t have to worry about being homeless. I can fix it up. Have a dog. I am really experiencing freedom for the first time. It is terrifying. I don’t know what winter is like in a camper. I hope it will be warm enough. I can use an electric heater and it has a propane furnace in it. It has a full size bed that folds into a bench on one end and a twin bed thst makes into a breakfast nook with a table on the other. No bathroom. There’s one close though. I have storage for things but I have no room for things I don’t need. I am learning to stop blaming myself and start learning to think positively about my new situation. I do free things for fun like go to the beach at Lake Superior and sit in places with wi fi and write for pay. Its not much but every little bit helps. I read books more. My life has slowed way down as it does when you shed the possessions and live simply. People have been good to me. Helped me get on my feet a little. I’m actually looking forward to living in my new (to me) tiny home.
Here it is. The camper.
I’m not lazy.
I lost my job which didn’t pay a living wage anyway. Things have got to get better, right? Next time you see a homeless person keep your judgmental mouth shut. It could be you in this day and age. Remember that.
I am American.