Yesterday, I met with the social services case manager in charge of my participation in the job search program. And she congratulated me for completing it, and asked what I though about it.
I said it was much better than I’d expected. The facilitators of County Job Search Program 2.0 (so to speak) actually paid attention to the people in the “class” and did their best to find targeted job leads or hiring fairs that would do the most good, as well as giving us more general leads. And I appreciated it, because that was NOT the way it worked in County Job Search Program 1.0 back in March. Case Manager was pleased to know I’d gotten some use out it. When I told her about the interview of last Friday, she was very pleased, and very sincere in her hopes that I’d get an offer.
Then we hit a couple of home truths, and they hit like a bucket of ice water.
Home Truth 1: since I had now completed the county’s job search program, Case Manager could no longer authorize the additional funds that had paid my transit costs. She did say that if I called her to let her know I’d gotten a job — any job — she could then authorize a full month’s worth of transit benefits immediately.
Which is nice, but I wonder if she’ll be able to do anything if I just call her to say I’ve got another interview. Not that I do, at the moment, but it’s an interesting question.
Home Truth 2: Today starts my last month on county assistance. According to the county’s website, the particular type of assistance I’ve been on is, and I’m paraphrasing, available to indigent adults who don’t qualify for state or federal assistance. Separate from food stamps (a federal benefit called SNAP in my category), this assistance covers the cases of people who are able to work; those who are temporarily or permanently unable to work, due to various causes such as physical or mental illness; and people who can work but need special accommodations.
For those of us who are able to work — for me, here and now — that benefit, all $221 a month of it, is available for nine months out of twelve, assuming the recipient is meeting all the requirements of the job search program. Which I have.
Can anyone explain to me exactly WHY it’s a good idea to take someone who’s been diligently looking for work and penalize them for not finding it by taking away the only “income” they’re getting? For three months? I mean, sure, $221 a month is chicken feed in a lot of ways; without additional assistance from some kind of housing program (Section 8, for example), you can’t pay rent on that, and if you can, you don’t have anything left for anything else. As far as I know, I won’t be losing my food stamps, but there are things to buy that are not food, expenses to cover that are necessary to living: gasoline and insurance and clothing and shampoo and cell phone (gotta have a way to be contacted for all those job offers, right?) and toothpaste all come to mind right away, and I’m sure you can think of others.
What, exactly, does the county think we’re supposed to do without those funds?
I’m relatively lucky, I guess, because at the moment I’m living in a shelter and don’t have to worry about rent. Except that the program I’m on — everyone has a program, it seems — requires me to save 70 percent of my income in order to remain a resident in good standing. But my expenses have always exceeded my “income” since I became homeless. I have stuff in storage because I can’t see the sense of selling off every single thing I own when, if I’m lucky and can just find work, I’ll be able to get into an apartment were I can have some, if not all, of my possessions, and sell only what I don’t need or what won’t fit. Why should I have to replace it all, which would cost a pretty penny in and of itself, especially in the context of a starting pay scale?
Why should anyone expect that in order to get help, you — I — have to be all the way down at the bottom of the pit? I guess it hasn’t occurred to the Powers That Be that it’s easier to get someone out of a hole if the hole isn’t very deep.
So…next month, I start my three-month “hiatus” from public assistance, general relief category. But the bills will still be there, and if I don’t find work, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
When you add in the fact that I’m heading into my fifth month of the shelter’s six-month program, maybe you can understand why I’ve come down sick for the sixth or so time since December.
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