In September 2010, my home went into foreclosure.
In January 2011, I filed for bankruptcy.
In August 2011, the business I was working for (part-time--it never made it to full-time) shut down.
In October 2011, I couldn't forestall the bank any longer, and my house reverted to them.
In December 2011, I moved out of the home my mother had bought for us nearly 40 years before, and into a bedroom in the apartment of a friend of a friend.
My unemployment ran out, and the friend of a friend got ratted out for having a roommate. When I had to leave there on February 17, 2012, I was able to stay at a friend's place while she was out of town.
Then she came back, and I had to leave.
On February 22, 2012, I spent my first night in a cold-weather homeless shelter.
(Read on below the orange squiggle.)
You might be wondering why my friend couldn't just take me in. Two reasons: she's allergic to my cats and has enough health issues without adding that to the mix, and she was moving to the desert--which is not where I wanted to be. She would have taken me in in a heartbeat, but it just wasn't possible.
Yes, I have other friends. No, they couldn't take me in, either. They have lives of their own, some have children, most couldn't cope with my pets for one reason or another--and frankly, many of them were close enough to being in the same boat that taking in someone who couldn't pay rent would have landed them in the bilge right along with me.
Also, yes, I was looking for work. I'd been freelancing for several years, or trying to, living off what was supposed to have been my retirement account when I couldn't make ends meet, which was most of the time. By the time I realized exactly what kind of hole I was in with my toxic mortgage, the job market and the financial industry were both taking their nose dive. So I was looking for work that just wasn't there, and the market was taking more and more of my savings down with it.
I managed to make the May 2010 mortgage payment. But I couldn't make June's. In fact, I never made another mortgage payment. Which, of course, is why I went into foreclosure.
And it killed me. All I could think of was how disappointed my mother would have been at my not paying my debts--after all, she always had.
And yes, credit card debt played its part as well. I'd made late payments on the only two cards I had, and wound up paying the maximum amount in interest. You know the way it goes from there: the interest portion of the payment was so high, the principal wasn't dropping by much at all.
In August 2010, I started the part-time job I mentioned, but it really didn't become a paying proposition until late 2010. But I managed to squeak out another payment or two on the credit cards.
Then I couldn't make those, either.
In December 2010, the bank notified me my house was going up for auction in January 2011. I knew, I knew, that even if the part-time job turned full-time, or I got a second job, that with the amount of credit card debt I was carrying, there was no way I could qualify for a loan modification. (Assuming the substitute trustee was willing to consider a modification, of which I had no guarantee.)
In a last-ditch effort to save my home, to give myself a fighting chance of being able to afford the payments if I could find enough work, I filed for bankruptcy in early January 2011.
The part-time job puttered along, never quite giving me enough hours per weeks for a long enough period to qualify as full-time and thus get benefits. The bankruptcy puttered along, too: I was one of 1,410,653 bankruptcy filings in 2011, and that kind of backlog takes a while to plow through. But I was granted a bankruptcy in June 2011.
The bank notified me almost immediately they were putting my house on the block.
In another last-ditch effort--and I was getting a little tired of all of them, because hey, I was a good person and I play by the rules and I paid my taxes and I didn't lie or cheat or steal, so when was I gonna get a break?--I worked with one of those entities that helps people legally forestall foreclosure. July: a one-month reprieve! August: first a two-week reprieve, then a one-month!
I went to work on August 21 to open and discovered my key wouldn't work. The business was dead, and my job was gone. I filed for unemployment, hearing about all the extensions being granted, and dared to hope I could keep things afloat long enough to find another job.
I couldn't. In October, my house went up for auction. No one bid, so it reverted to the bank. There followed two months of carrot-and-stick from the bank: cash for keys offer! Notice to Quit! Cash for keys counter! Notice to Vacate! Cash for keys counter-counter! Notice of Intent to File for Eviction!
I moved my stuff into storage--I will spare you the story of the move from hell--and hied myself and my cats to a furnished bedroom.
Two weeks after I moved, my unemployment ran out, and I discovered that extensions don't happen if your "pool" is out of money...which mine was. The cash-for-keys money lasted a while, but not as long as I'd hoped, and without the unemployment to supplement it, I found myself swallowing my pride and applying for general relief and food stamps.
That's right, Mitt. I, formerly a solid middle-class citizen (in the real sense, not this $200K-a-year nonsense you've been spouting), was on public assistance. I was, in your view, and the view of all those who "like" those stupid e-card things such as "Gee, that person on welfare with the iPhone needs to ask Siri how to find a job!", a leech, a drag on the economy, a deadbeat, a loafer, completely undeserving of help.
I moved out of the bedroom two months after I moved in. Officially, I was homeless. My soon-to-be-ex-landlady found out about a local shelter that allowed homeless people to bring their animals, so I went there and opened a case. As part of the process, I had to go to a homeless services organization in a different part of town and get a statement of homelessness from them.
Talk about hard. Hard to admit to anyone that I was homeless, that despite being cleaned up, having a new Android phone (my former land line, ported over so I wouldn't have to lose the number I'd had for 30 years, and that all my friends had) and an old laptop, I was on the dole and faced living out of my car. I'm not ashamed to say I cried all over the desk of the very compassionate young man who gave me the form.
He gave me something else, too--the address of the cold-weather homeless shelter I went to a week later.
I spent a week, the last week of February this year, in that shelter. In line by 7:00 PM, allowed in at 8:00, dinner at 8:30 or 9:00, and lights out at 10:00, sleeping on a cot with an itchy blanket that wasn't long enough to cover both my shoulders and my feet, not wide enough let me sleep on top of it and have enough to pull around me.
But it was a place to sleep, and a hot meal, and I was grateful to have it.
That first night, a couple of the other women told me about a women-only day refuge, a place where I could go and take a shower, do a load of laundry (if I got there soon enough) and get a bite to eat. It was only open four days a week, but the next day I went, showered, did laundry...felt like a human.
I still had my car, so I could carry the necessities with me and save on the cost of driving back and forth to my storage for stuff. The cats wound up at their vet's in what was supposed to be, intended to be, a merely temporary solution.
So much for good intentions.
During the last couple of days the shelter was open, volunteers from the local homeless services organization came to offer preliminary intakes to their program. I still had the case open with the place where I could take my cats, but my case manager had no idea when a bed would open up there, so I went ahead and opened a case with the local service, too.
The morning after the shelter closed for the season, my friend went out of town again and let me stay at her place. As before, I had to be gone when she came back, but she was leaving again on Sunday. So I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights sleeping in my car.
Not a very successful "experiment", since I only actually got any sleep on Friday night. Thursday I tried to tough it out, staying in a 24-hour restaurant drinking coffee and looking for work on my laptop; when I finally admitted to myself I couldn't do it, went to my car and moved it to the darkest section of the parking lot and tried to sleep, I found I was so hyper-aware of every light, every sound, that I gave up about six AM. Saturday night, got too hot curled up in my back seat doing my best imitation of a load of laundry, covered by a heavy flannel duvet cover and my comforter. I wound up at the same 24-hour restaurant, grateful they'd let me sit there ordering nothing more that hot water for my tea.
Sunday, overflowing with gratitude, I went back to my friend's place. She was coming back Wednesday afternoon, so I tried like hell to find a place to stay. I heard about another women-only shelter--"Call exactly at 8:00 AM, that's the only time they do intakes, and it depends on whether they have any beds!"--kept trying them, but no soap. Nothing from the place I could take my cats. And I woke up Wednesday morning sick as a dog, found the weather report called for rain, and knew I just couldn't spend the night in my car again.
I just couldn't. Well, I could have, but I didn't want to, dammit, I was sick, didn't need the extra stress, didn't have anywhere else to go. So I called the place I'd found out about from the cold-weather shelter, the one I'd opened a case with a couple of weeks before, and begged for a bed.
They had one. I've been there ever since, eight weeks as an overnighter (calling every weekday morning to see if I'd have a bed that night) and the rest of the time as an official resident. And I have been SO grateful for a place to sleep, and a way to clean up, and a way to get laundry done (only three pieces a day, true, but between the shelter and the women's day refuge, I can keep up), and dinner every night, even if it tends to be carb-heavy.
Breakfast and lunch, too, if I'm on site, but the shelter opens to day clients at 7:00 AM every morning, and it's frankly demoralizing to sit and listen to some of the conversations. To see people I know damned well ought to be under medical care--and/or mental health care--but who have nowhere else to go. To discuss with my dorm mates how hard we're all looking for work (or how hard some of them are working to get their disability, or their SSI, which they deserve to get), what we'd like to do for housing when we get the chance.
How nice it will be to sleep until we actually need to get up, instead of being woken at 6:00 AM (7:00 on weekends and holidays!) by the fluorescent lights coming on a voice shouting, "Time to get up, ladies! Time to get up!" To be able to shower in the morning instead of having to do it at night, because mornings are for chores, and stay in if we want instead of having to leave an hour after lights on. To be able to come home when we want, put our feet up, watch what we want on TV instead of the lowest common denominator, instead of not being able to go back up to the dorm until 7:00 PM.
Did I mention that one month after I officially became a resident at the shelter, my car was totaled? One intersection away from the shelter? Fortunately, it was 100% the other driver's fault, admitted in front of the nice motorcycle officer who stopped to offer assistance. But still, no car. Nowhere to leave stuff I might need during the day. Nowhere to sleep if I lost my place in the shelter.
During this time, as part of the requirements to keep my food stamps and general relief (which I guess is what they're calling welfare in these parts), I've been through the county's jobs program Level 1; the job-search program run through the shelter; and the county's Level 2 program. I've sent out, at minimum, 200 resumes this year, and it might be closer to 300.
I know there are people who will say I should have done twice that many, I should have applied to every single job I could find. But I've also been told by employment development counselors that doing so can backfire, can cause a prospective employer to look at a resume and wonder why in hell this person is after thisjob since they don't match any of the qualifications or requirements.
In other words, it has the potential to be a huge waste of time and effort, and to be honest, dropping a resume into what might as well be a black hole is pretty demoralizing in its own right.
But it paid off. I start a job in two weeks, I have a carpool to get to work, and I have a room to rent for a reasonable amount--and I can bring my cats!
Long story, I know. But I'm not the only one going through it, Mitt. I'm not the only middle-class person who's lost a job, who ran up bills and then couldn't find a way to pay them, who for one reason or many discovered what it's like to wind up in the safety net.
Without it, I'd be living on the street.
Hell, without it, I might be dead. But I'm alive, and well--or well enough to get by on--and about to return to the part of the population who pays into the system. And the places that helped me may only get $10 a month to start, but they'll get it, because I know what they've done for me. They gave me the chance, and the emotional support, to find the right job at the right time.
And here you are, with your damned condescending 47% crap, just waiting for your chance to take a machete to the safety net. Every photo I see of you, it's like you're salivating to do just that.
Not if I have anything to say about it, you won't.
I'm one of your 47%, and I am NOT a victim, NOT an entitlement junky, NOT waiting for my chance to stick it to Uncle Sam, and there are a lot more people like me around that you know about, or care about, if your recently come-to-light comments are any indication.
And I will succeed, because the government helped me when I needed it, and now I get my shot.
Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it, pal.