Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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So You Wanna Help

As we approach the end of Hurricane Florence, we are going to have to deal with the aftermath.  That means damaged houses, lost jobs, community clean up, and displaced individuals, among other issues.  People will want to help.  Here are a few thoughts about that.

Don’t give used stuff.  People don’t want your old clothes, and someone has to wash, bleach, iron, sort and transport that stuff.  It’s not free by the time it’s all done.  And it’s not uncommon for bugs to become an issue while it’s being stored.  Give money instead.  That way agencies can buy things that are needed based on demand.

Don’t donate canned goods.  They also have to be sorted, packed, shipped, unpacked and distributed.  I’m told a 69 cent can of beans can end up costing $3.00 by the time all that is done.  Plus it takes manpower that might be better spent on other tasks, like debris removal.  If you want to run a can drive, please give the bounty to a local food pantry where it can do the most good.

Do give money.  First of all it allows agencies to buy what they really need.  The American Red Cross might supply beds to displaced survivors but they need cots and blankets to do that, which wear out over time and need to be replaced.  Second, many agencies give out gift cards or pay utility bills, which are obviously much easier to do with cash.

Do give blood.  Not only is there likely to be an increased need, but blood drives in the affected areas have been cancelled so supplies may be down throughout the region.  If you can’t afford a cash donation, giving blood is a good move.

Now maybe you’ve decided to give up this morning’s latte to help disaster victims, but what can you do with that $5.00?  You’ve heard all the stories about charitable organizations where 90% of the money goes to internal expenses like executive salaries.  If you decided to help, no doubt you want the most of your money to go to the disaster.  A good site to check out agencies is National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster .  Their landing page is all about helping Florence victims.  Another good list of options is this one from Fast Company.  Notice the emphasis on giving money or time.

All of which is to say, please give but be smart about it.  Give what people need and choose responsible organizations.  Be wise and be kind.  Your heart will be happier.


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Typical day on the phone

Most days, I spend the morning on the phone.  Now I may have facebook and email up, but I’m probably just clicking around there while I leave messages.  So, just to prove that I do more than sit on my hiney and drink coffee, this is today’s phone calls and responses:

In Texas, churches and other agencies no longer operate privately, you call 2-1-1 to get referred to clearinghouse agencies.  So I started there, because the list does change as funding becomes available to different places.  I am looking for rental assistance for 03/01, and also utility assistance.

Richardson Network — will only help with rent if I have a job.  However, they did set me an appointment for 10:00 in the morning on 03/04, which works around the training schedule for my new job.  They gave me a list of required items and I guess I will print off the official offer letter to see if that will work as proof of employment.

Richardson East Care Corps — no funds available until April

North Dallas Shared Ministries — will only help people who are currently employed having a one-time emergency.  New job starts 03/03?   Talk to us after you’ve been there 5 days.  That won’t help with 03/01 rent.

Then I called places that I could think of:

United Way — provides funds to charities, does not provide funds directly to individuals.  I knew that, but I figured they might know agencies in my area.  Referred me to Red Cross and Salvation Army

Red Cross — natural disaster assistance only (which I pretty much expected, but you never know)

Salvation Army — no funds available

Catholic Charities — on Mondays only, they will set an appointment for a counselling session to see what they can do.  I couldn’t call this Monday because everything was closed for President’s Day.  I can call next Monday 02/24, but I doubt I will get an appointment and then be funded by 03/01.  Most appointments are 1 to 2 weeks out and I don’t have that time.

Jewish Family Services — left voicemail, no return call yet

Local High School — talked to my daughter’s principal and was referred to student assistance.  Left voicemail, no return call yet

Ex-husband — daughter lived with him until last March, so he had custody.  He has refused to sign her over to me unless I agree not to pursue child support, and I’m not giving away her right of access to any resources he might have, so we’ve been at a standstill.  He called a couple weeks ago and said he was going to get us $200 twice a month (he gets paid that often).  Last month he gave us $300 total.  He did not answer my call today, left voicemail, no return call yet.

Urban League — left voicemail, no return call yet

County HHS — this one was actually very frustrating.  They are listed as: Section 8 Rental Assistance Program, County Emergency Rental Assistance / Welfare Program and Housing Assistance Program, Health and Human Services, City HAP, Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program / CEAP and HUD-Approved Assistance.  There are 2 phone numbers, one to the general HHS office and one to the specific housing office.  I finally realized that these are all the same place, but it took several calls and much confusion.  They only provide housing assistance to disabled people, which I am not.  They told me to call for an appointment for utility assistance which would be set for next week.  I called 22 times in an hour, on 3 of those I got a pre-recorded message about high call volume, call later.  The other calls were not even answered by an automated system.

CCA (Christian Community Action) — number not in service

Center of Hope — even though the blurb says they provide assistance in my city, they do not cover my zip code

City Department of Housing — referred me to 2 other agencies

Multi-Purpose Center — outgoing message states do not leave message, appointments are set from 9 to 11 Mondays and Wednesdays, list of places for which funding is available and for which it is not, please call back

MLK Social Service line — outgoing message states center is open Monday and Wednesday from 9 to 11 or until all available appointments are filled

County Planning and Development — must be disabled

Housing Authority — circular phone tree.  Press 1 for English.  Press 3 for all other departments.  Press 3 again for all other departments (yep, they didn’t list my department either time).  Press 1 for English.  Press 3 for all other departments.  Twice.  Press 0 to see if I could get an operator, got asked to press 1 for English again.  Gave up, since apparently they don’t actually want to talk to people, and really I expect them to tell me they can only help if I’m disabled.

High School — called me back.  Said they can provide free breakfast and lunch (we already get that, but the lady wouldn’t know) and a bus pass so daughter can continue to stay in this school if we are in a shelter.  I will go down and fill out the form for that, she can use the bus pass in any case since she might need to stay late to use internet at school from time to time.

Tried the CEAP one more time, got a message that said high call volume, agents busy, please hold.  Listened to it cycle about 5 times, then was told to call again later.

So that was my  morning from 8 to 12:15.  I am now going to take a shower and get on the bus to make the rounds of places I can visit in person, see what I can get done.  I am also going to do dishes, make lunch, look at Volusion to see if they are more affordable than Etsy for selling the stuff I make.  I have an Etsy account but I haven’t been able to post anything or renew postings in months.  I will also look at other funding options online, see if there’s anything I can do.  No loans, though, because at this point with my anticipated income, I can’t guarantee being able to pay them back.

I can’t wait to get back to work.  It’s less stressful.

 

 

The rest of the day:

I left the house at 1:30 to catch the bus.  I had a check from a family member that I needed to take to the bank.  The bank is across the street from Jewish Family Services so I stopped in.  I told the lady behind the counter my issues and she said at first that they didn’t have any funds.  Then I told her the backstory, and she told me to come back tomorrow and talk to someone.  I stopped by the grocery store and tried to pay a bill with the money from the check but they wouldn’t take it because the bill was past due.  Really, all my bills are past due because in Texas when you become unemployed it takes them 5 weeks to get you the full amount of the first month’s payments.  That means that all your bill have cycled at least once, and since unemployment pays about 65% – 70% of your previous income, you don’t have extra money to catch up, so you just pay past due amounts.  Anyway, I walked down the block to catch a bus to another grocery store to make the payment.  This time I was clever enough to write the account number on a separate piece of paper and not pull out the bill.  Then I had to wait for the bus again, which was 15 minutes late, and connect to another bus.  Got home just about 6:30.  So it took me 5 hours to do only those few things.  I did pick up sleeves for my artist trading cards that I’ve been making though (100 sleeves for $0.79, so I don’t feel hugely guilty about that) and I stopped in at PetsMart and petted the adoption kitties for a minute.  I knew I had time for that and still made the bus to pay the bill.  Now all I have to do is call and be sure the payment is logged.


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Food and other items

I went online and requested the interview for food stamps, which is called SNAP now, and other welfare assistance.  I’m pretty sure that in January there will suddenly be an extension, but in case there’s not, well, I got to keep working towards some kind of resolution.  Welfare isn’t my first choice, but I do need a safety net.

The lady is reviewing us for everything and most of it will take a while because we need to provide additional information.  Well, that’s okay I guess.  However she said she was planning to approve the food stamps that day, which actually was pretty impressive.  Of course it will take a week for the card to arrive, but at least we can plan grocery shopping.

And that’s what I’m thinking about today.  I mean, Yay!  Groceries!  Dinner!  But what about toilet paper?

No, seriously.  Food stamps can only be used on food; you can’t use them for toothpaste or laundry soap or tampons.  I don’t think I can go 3 months without shaving my underarms or washing my hair, how do I pay for razors and shampoo?  I mean I can hardly go on a job interview without taking a shower and putting on clean clothes, but those take supplies too.

Not to mention, in my apartment complex, I don’t have a washing machine in my actual apartment so I need to pay for laundry.  That’s $1.00 to wash and $0.75 to dry.  Oh, and my lease includes a clause that I won’t put a laundry line on my patio so I can’t hang clothes out to dry. I suppose I can do underwear by hand in the sink and hang it in the tub but that won’t work for jeans.

Charli the kitty is watching me type this, and I wonder how to take care of her.  I got her when I had a job and it’s only maybe $30 a month for food and litter.  She isn’t expensive but food stamps won’t cover it.  I get that we want to help people not animals.  Yet life circumstances change, so the cat who was extremely affordable a year ago is a financial burden today.  What do you say to people with pets?  “Why did you get a pet if you can’t afford to feed it?”  Well, really, I could afford to feed her when I got her.  And she loves me even if I can’t afford laundry soap and smell like a yak.  She loves me if my teeth fall out and my leg hair is long enough to braid.  Life is tough; the unconditional acceptance of a beloved pet makes things a little more tolerable.  Besides, since things do change in unexpected ways, are you going to suggest that nobody should have pets in case they have financial reverses at some point in the future?

So yay for food stamps and boy do I need them!  Just remember that isn’t all I need to bootstrap myself to a better place.