From January 2012 to May 2016 I lived in public housing. While in college my rent was FREE because my main job was being a full-time student. I quit my job in 2011 to purse school full-time. I know crazy right! Summers were the only time I worked. I knew there was no way I could handle working full-time as well as going to school full-time. Education was more of a priority – I had no children or a husband to take care of so I believed it was the right time and thing to do. By making this huge sacrifice, I made the deans list 3 times and finished with all A’s my last semester of undergrad. I was super proud of myself and I had more confidence in myself than ever before.College really showed me who I was and what I was capable of. I was blessed to be able to flip the way public housing is traditionally used in America. Although I was grateful for this opportunity, public housing not only made a way for me to be college educated, I also got educated about the system.
From the very beginning I felt they looked down on me for receiving assistance. They always had a very stern demeanor anytime I had a meeting with them or even talked with them on the phone. They lacked patience and never wanted to hear what I had to say. I immediately felt judged.
True Story-I called to get the gas and electric turned on and they informed me that I couldn’t do it but my landlord had to. When I contacted my case worker he dismissed everything I said and told me it was my responsibility.I kept calling and pleading my case until he decided to look into it. He told me he was sorry and the last tenants did something illegal .And from then on out the landlord had to call first before it could get turned into someone else’s name. Although-out my time in public housing, I was talked down to and constantly made to feel like I was a liar.
Each time something changed in my household I had to go and fill-out this 20 page packet. It was a grueling process and it took me about two hours each time. The most humiliating part about the paperwork was the employment verification form. At the start and ending of every employment, my boss was required to fill this paper out. They knew upfront that I was receiving help from the government and it made my stomach turn each time. I always felt I had to give a speech, telling them that I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth and that I don’t plan to be getting assistance for the rest of my life. At one job I moved up in a position really quick and my boss said” I know you just had me sign that paper, now I have to sign it again “- with a little smile and laugh at the end. Yeah you’re right, how could you forget about the girl on assistance… A sick feeling overcame me every time that paper left my hand and went into the hands of my bosses.
When it was time to pay rent, the first year it was based off of 50% of the families income( I didn’t live alone my sister and I decided to go to college together). I graduated first, which means I was the first to get a job. At that time our rent was 200.00 dollars a month. When my sister finally graduated college it increased to 465.00 a month. Well in April of 2016 it came time for us to pay 100% of our rent and the grand total was 1, 129 dollars a month.You read that right! We were shocked. Our combined hourly income was 23 dollars an hour. I thought the cap off for our unit was 700 dollars a month. I guess there was a loop hole we didn’t know about. Our new dwelling rent would start the very next month which was may of 2016. I scheduled a meeting with them and the lady I met with was just as shocked as me. She kept doing her calculations over and over and still was shocked.Not wanting to step on the toes of the person who did our account, she made up some excuse as to why it was right.
In Closing ……. public assistance educated me on the behaviors and attitudes of some caseworkers. Why choose a job that requires you to help others and you have no desire in doing that? Why treat everyone the same? Is it going to hurt to get to know the person’s story? Everyone on public assistance is not trying to misuse it.Public assistance educated me on how your statues is made know to the world. I wonder is that the purpose to make you feel humiliated and sorry for yourself for being on it. It was nothing but God that got me through this chapter in my life…this system always made me frustrated. Finally public assistance educated me on the way it keeps this populations of people down. At the time they were tying to make us pay 1, 129 dollars a month, I was only making 13 dollars an hour and my sister 10 dollars. That’s nothing when you have school loans, car payment, insurance, utilities, and personal items to account for.Rent was free when I didn’t have employment but when I got steady employment rent became so high I had to leave the very next month. Where is the balance? What if this was the only place we had to live? One of us would be forced to quit our job, so there would be one source of income in the house-Just ludicrous. There goes their stability and main stream of income. I guess that’s why most misuse it. I NEVER wanted to live on it forever I would of just liked to know a few months in advance that my rent was increasing to 1,129 dollars. Communication was always horrible. You would call and leave a message and they would get back with you two weeks later. But if you dare to be late on your rent they personally deliver you an eviction notice on your door!
This system is so broken but I’m thankful because it EDUCATED ME!
Thanks for reading!!
Peace and Blessings