Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Need Government Assistance But in a Different Way, Days 124, 125, 126, and 127

I was twelve years old when I first ran away, and I had my first job then, too. I've been on my own for so long. I've worked as a maid for a crack motel. I've stayed in crack houses and the streets sometimes but mostly on buses. I've been intimate with what it's like to have nothing and live off of nothing. I was so young then, and I survived it. With some effort, of course, but it came to me more easily than it should've.

It's different growing up in San Francisco. You know everyone. It's like this built-in network. It was hard for me and the choices sucked balls, but I was presented with them. At the time I felt like I had no choice(s), but in retrospect that's far from the truth. I was only willing to see certain choices. It felt like everyone was against me, out to get me, and coming at me from all directions. Sometimes it was like that, but I wasn't really a target like I thought I was. It was just a vicious, violent environment that virtually attacked at any given moment whenever an opportunity presented itself. I just happened to be a part of that element. Maybe that's why, although I rarely acknowledged it, there were people who backed me up. It perpetuated the chaos. Some of them really cared, but most of them probably needed to fulfill a surge to strike whenever they could. It was Hell, but I do appreciate who I am now because of it.

But you know what? It's crap when people say that it builds you up. I suppose it can and it had for a while, but then I got comfortable once I escaped that life. I did well for myself. I'm not some drug addict living on a street corner selling my ass to sustain a pathetic excuse of an existence that makes death seem like paradise.

You hear about how people carry that past with them, and you do, but it can easily be forgotten, too. Even if that "forgetting" is nothing more than compartmentalizing, it doesn't feel like a part of you. Well that's the way it is for me anyways. When it was happening, I felt like I was dying. Superstition was really what saved me. I hated where I was and although I wanted nothing more than to escape, I wasn't ready to. I couldn't return to the life I had, one which I felt was never my own. It's twisted but at least when I lived in Hell, I felt like I belonged. It was both painful and a tragic relief.

I'm not going to sit here and say that I've never thought about ending it. Who wouldn't after going through something like that? But I was too scared to. Unfamiliarity frightened me more than any psychotics I've ever come across. Being detached made me over-think a lot minus the emotional freak-outs, but fear was something I couldn't eradicate. It watched over me like a creepy stalker ex-boyfriend who could attack you in your sleep but could also just as easily protect me if someone threatened me. It kept me check. According to my culture and superstition if you commit suicide, you're doomed to live the life you tried to escape from. Except you're trapped there for eternity. I no longer believe this for the most part, but at the time it's what kept me from taking that leap.

Years later, I matriculated with productive members of society. The truth is that I never really belonged with the rejects. (Rejects is a generic, overly generalized term that's not quite accurate and not quite incorrect, either. As tragic as it is, some of them are rejects in my eyes. They were born crack addicts and had no ambition to ever change that. It's like both their environment and biological predisposition left them in a state of helplessness and absence of any hopes as to ensure that they suffer in this life as penitence for something awful they did in their past life or lives. Then there are those who weren't extraordinary, average at best. But they could've realistically obtained a marginally better life than the one they chose to be a part of no matter how much they vehemently argue that white America puts them there. Sometimes they don't know what else is out there, but I also think it's a combined problem, that they aren't as interested as they'd like others to believe they are. Even worse, some have so much potential. More than they realize! At the risk of sounding self-righteous, I'm intelligent. I recognize intelligence. Some of them possessed remarkable talents and heightened intelligence. I didn't allow myself to focus on it then, but now that I can safely look back, it's awful that they're probably still living the crap life. Is it wrong to say that some people seemed doomed to live that life and there's nothing anyone could do to change that, even themselves. When you have nothing and feel inadequate because you're an embodiment of shortcomings and failures, sometimes a person feels that way because they can't deny the truth. It's a callous thing to say, but it's a part of life. I wish I can say that those people deserve a break, but I do feel like there's a higher power at work here. Maybe their crimes in a past life were never paid, and it was so outrageous that it goes beyond what the law could ever pursue, so that's why they're suffering so much now. Because of this I can't say in the fullest sincerity that those types of people deserve a break. Some people are hopeless. It's jacked up, but if you're one of those people, I can understand why you don't aspire to something greater. What bothers me most is untapped potential rotting away!) I never belonged with the rejects, but it's where I had to be at the time. I didn't have anywhere else to go, and there was a lesson to be learned from it all. (And I know I learned it, but it's not something I think even I could explain, nor is it something I'd want elaborate on. That experience is meant to be mine and mine alone).

I find myself lost in how I feel about all that's happened in my life lately. I'm definitely better off than where I was. Anywhere's better, really, than there. But I'm so unsatisfied with where I am now, too. I lost that deeply rooted anger and hatred, so I can't say I "hate it" and truly mean it. But it's certainly disappointing.

I had a job when I was twelve! I lived a crap life that eventually led me to my own apartment with road bumps along the way including a luxury apartment! Now I'm twenty six years old and I have four roommates. I live in the living room and I'm only renting half of that space. It wasn't long ago that I even shared the living room space with someone else. I was in more debt than I could pay off. I couldn't go to school because I had no money and owed money I didn't have. I'm unemployed, not by choice, but by circumstance. Not only am I unable to pay for my education, but my schedule has to be open for whenever a temp job occasionally visits me.

It's amazing how one mistake or a single act can have unimaginable, irreparable, damaging, long-term consequences. I chose the wrong employer with the faulty benefit that there's food built-in. Okay, so it's not nearly that simplified. But that's a perk I no longer have. Food and rent is my current priority. There's no room to indulge in fun, movies, entertainment, eating out, or even bus fare. So I've turned to the government for assistance.

So many people, me included at one point, are under the false pretense that there are no services available to the public when we need some form of financial assistance, and that's quite inaccurate. I, now, belong to three food banks and am on food stamps. It's amazing the services they have available. I do need government assistance but in a different way than what's offered.

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful for the food they provide me with. Without it, I wouldn't be able to eat. A woman who worked at one of the food banks, Pasadena Foothill Unity, offered me a wealth of resources available to me. I went to some of them. One of the places, Friends in Deed, gave me a full intake immediately, but I was under the impression that they'd offer me with housing assistance. As the intake progress, I quickly realized that they were assessing me for food services to which I gladly accepted, but they seemed a little lost when I inquired about the housing services offered. A couple employees ran around like chickens with their heads cut off to find me a business card for the people upstairs who offer that service, but they weren't there at the moment. I have to call to make an appointment or else they don't show up. Apparently it's more affordable to have the employees who aid in housing services to only to be at work when an appointment is made because very few people seek out that service.

I went to another place, Passageways, and was told that I have to show up with a specific slip that proves I'm homeless. When I went to DPSS (Department of Public Social Services), I was asked if I was a drug addict, if I had any kids, was I probation, etc. No to all. That made the services I'm eligible for far more limited. I have to wait a month before I can become available for General Relief (GR), a service where the government provides me with some cash every month to be used at my discretion. I'm also not eligible for employment assistance until I become eligible for GR. I'm no longer blinded by my pride and will accept free money, but I'd rather be given resources to make my own money instead.

Why do I have to fall on my ass first before the government feels fit to assist me? It's such an eye-opening reality to how much we live in a symptom-management oriented society rather than a preventive approach that allows us to sustain a healthier quality of living. I don't want to sound like an ingrate about what the government is offering me with. And evidently I'm a minority in my opinion, but I've resisted government assistance for so long because I wanted to be self-sufficient and independent. I feel like that burning desire in me is eliminating me as a candidate for a myriad of government assistance. How tragic is that?

~Department of Public Social Services (DPSS)~

955 N. Lake Ave (cross street Mountain)
Pasadena CA
(626) 791-6333

Food Stamps
General Relief
Grow Program (employment service only eligible after General Relief eligibility, short for General Relief Opportunity of Work)
Homeless Prevention Specialists available

*Pick up an application for a food stamp and general relief
*If you have any $ in your accounts, take them out.
*Any bank accounts must have less than $50 to be eligible for General Relief. If you have more than $50 in your account, you'll have to wait 30 days before you're applicable to re-apply.
*Bring your CA ID, social security card or proof of social security from social security department or birth certificate, and bank account statements if you have any. They do verify, but the names of the banks aren't listed, just the amount of money in them. I believe that money market funds and credit unions don't appear.
*Arrive early.
*They have metal scanners.
*Fingerprints will be performed.
*For GROW program, you'll speak to an Employment Specialist and be scheduled a mandatory orientation. You also have to go to the EDD Office and register with them and look for at least six jobs. This will be monitored. After those meetings are completed, you're to return to DPSS with documentations that prove you did all of this. (Paperwork provided and explained when you first visit DPSS for General Relief).
*If you continue to actively search for employment, you're eligible for General Relief for nine consecutive months unless you become unavailable for unemployment. Then General Relief will be suspended until you're eligible to work again.

~Friends in Deed~

444 E. Washington Blvd
Pasadena, CA
(626) 797-6072
M-F 9 AM - 5 PM

*New clients must arrive on Wednesday between 10 am - 12 pm
*Food bank on Tuesday and Wednesday. Before 9:30 am, you get most choices.
*Food choices are produce (apples, bananas, peaches, carrots, salad greens, etc), prepackaged goods, canned goods, pasta and breads such as croissants
*Personal care items are available upon request such as tampons, soap, toothbrush, and toothpaste
*Apartment assisting available upstairs
*Offers loan programs with 2% interest

~Pasadena Foothill Unity Center~

191 N. Oak Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91107
(626) 584-7420

*Food Hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 9-11:30 am and Wednesday from 1-3:30 pm
*Regular office hours: 9 am-5 pm Monday through Friday
*If you're a new client, arrive with a picture ID, three or six paycheck stubs or recent bank statement, three rent receipts (they don't verify), and proof of address such as something mailed to you.
*Once a month (the same week you sign up), you're eligible for a full load which includes breads, veggies, produce, and basically your biggest load of food. You can get eggs, chicken, etc. You can also choose two things from behind the wall. They'll let you know, as well as three bus tokens or one taxi ride home with the food you just received, good for only one trip).
*You're eligible to return to get food once a week, but unless it's your full load of the month, you get mostly bread and produce.
*They offer employment assistance because they have an arrangement with Women at Work. Speak to Anisa Lopez, the job consultant.
*1-month motel voucher is offered in Monrovia

~Women at Work~

Speak to Vicki Campbell to attend workshops for free of charge through Foothill Unity Center.

~Ecumenical Council Pasadena Area Churches~

444 E. Washington Blvd
P.O. Box 41125
Pasadena CA 91114

*Friends in Deed referred me to this homeless prevention services. Speak to Corinne A. Kershaw.
*Offers apartment assistance and loans with a 2% interest rate.


1020 S. Arroyo Pkwy (btwn Glenarm and California)
Pasadena CA 91105
M-F 8 AM - 5 PM

*Part of Union Station
*Section 8 projects
*Service available for the homeless or anyone with an immediate eviction notice and nowhere to go.

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