As we begin day 4 in the shelter let me tell you about the system. Here is how I understand it’s supposed to work. Apply for emergency assistance, get placed in a shelter (this could be a hotel, group home and even temporary apartments), look for work or continue working, apply to housing, apply for Section 8 or continue to wait for Section 8, follow all rules (no illegal activity, no drinking, be with your children at all times) and move out of the shelter into an affordable place of your own.
How the system really works is a joke. Apply for assistance, get placed in a dump, not follow rules, not care about finding a place to live cause shelter life is free and you get Food Stamps and Cash Assistance, take up space in all shelters and get told housing lists are 10+ years long or closed.
As we navigated these past few days we’ve met some great people who like us are working to better their lives and fond a home. They’ve told us the ins and outs (cause the staff here tells you next to nothing), who to watch out for (like the single guy who likes to stare at the little girls or the crazy guy who goes off his meds resulting in police coming at least once a week), when they offer free meals, how to get clean towels and bedding and what is within walking distance for necessities.
On the other side you have the ones who treat this hotel like party central and are just fine with living like this for the rest of their lives. You’ll know them right away and can find them drinking and smoking pot in the parking lot. They look dope sick and their children can be found running around unattended and playing in piles of dirt (or the nasty sand box they call a play area) with containers and utensils from the trash. They give give us the looks because we’re always spending time with our kids and scoping out what we have in case they want to steal it. They’ve been here for months, I even heard one say a full year.
You would think because we were a bit ahead in the system with my having a job it would be a quicker process, but because of the freeloaders we are not. Everyone of them fill up multiple spaces, in every shelter, leaving little to no room for a transfer. We were placed roughly 50 miles from our home town. Sure I could commute if I drove or there is the T at $30 round trip each day. Don’t forget the mile and a half walk and nearly 2 hours of train hopping to get there. This means each pay cycle I’d be using around a 3rd of my pay to get to work, the rest would be used on stuff like disposable diapers (oh how I miss cloth) and every day items that I don’t have the luxury of shopping around for.
We’re making the best of it all and hoping it works out. We have some good people on our side helping to get us closer and hopefully our stay in this shelter will be short. Stay tuned because tomorrow I show you some of the “luxury” we’re living in.