Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Homelessness Quagmire

As I was out panhandling this morning, a lady made a sarcastic comment as she drove by. "You gotta tell me how you got into that situation."

I felt like saying, "Because I love getting sunburned for $5 a day!" Or, "Too long for Twitter!" Instead, I pretended not to hear.

Once a person becomes homeless, there are few resources available unless the person has five or more years to wait. My regular readers will recall my situation began two-and-a-half years ago in Washington, D.C. when I was relocating so I could observe the Benghazi hearings. My motel room was broken into and everything was stolen. Since my bank card phone number was on my cell phone, and for some dumb reason their number is not listed in the 800 directory, by the time I was able to call them it had been cleaned out. That quickly, I was homeless.

After asking the Secret Service what the rules were concerning sleeping on the street, I selected a place right outside of a "soup kitchen". Many people said I should go to a park where it was more comfortable. The closest one was Rock Creek Park. Two words. Chandra Levy. I decided it was far better to be someplace where there was traffic in case something happened, uncomfortable or not.

The "soup kitchen" is only open Monday through Friday, so I went hungry on the weekends. Occasionally someone would see me there and donate something: cash, cigarettes, umbrella, blanket. The "soup kitchen" also provided social services. At least, that is what they advertise. I signed up and spoke with the counselor, who told me of D.C.'s "rapid rehousing program" and also contacted the VA who supposedly had their own "rapid rehousing program". She assured me I would have a place to live within 30 days.

I waited six months. Through thunderstorms, rape attempts (a man tried on three consecutive nights until I procured a knife; Metro did not show up the first two times but when I told them they were going to need the meat wagon they appeared the third night and he was arrested), an assault (a drugged-out woman blindsided me and gave me a black eye; she too was arrested), etc. Before anyone mentions shelters, unless the hypothermia alert has been issued there is only one. 2nd and D, which is filled with convicted felons, drug addicts, and the mentally ill (some of whom are unpredictably violent). That is why I chose to remain on the streets, although I found a better location after about three months right beside GWU.

Anyway, after all of that, I realized I needed to make a change. I needed a place where no matter what the weather was, some place was always open. Which is why I chose Las Vegas. Readers will ask how I got there. I have a disability check, but those who are familiar with Social Security know it is not enough to live on. Even if a person finds an apartment for that amount of money, the person will have no electricity, no phone, no furniture, no food; there will be no money left over.

Here is where I admit some of this is my fault. If I could discipline myself enough to just sleep out in the streets for about six months, I could save up more than enough money to get out of this quagmire. The problem is, after three weeks or so of sleeping on the sidewalk, dealing with the occasional nut job, getting eaten up by bugs, dealing with the heat/cold/rain, I get tired. I want a bed. I want peace-and-quiet. So I go to a motel room. And it is extremely difficult to leave after a day or two. Extremely. Contrast concrete with a mattress, and guess which one I prefer? And there goes my check.

My regular readers know I have checked into all of the resources here, with the same results I got in D.C. People think the government has all this stuff just out there waiting for stupid people to go and take advantage of it all. The truth is, the government is a bureaucracy and is never that simple. Especially for the homeless.

So, to the ignorant person who posed the question: I hope you never have to find out.

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