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

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

Becoming poor

Wow, has it really been over 2 months since I last posted?  I apologize.

I’ve been unemployed since May, which means I am now out of unemployment benefits.  Oh, dear, now that IS a problem.  Because I haven’t had in interview since October and I need to pay rent and eat.

How does this happen?  I can only tell my story, such as it is.

About 5 years ago, I was laid off.  I was unemployed for almost 2 years, then I got a job at a bank.  I did the job for about 20 months as a temp, then was changed to a direct hire and did the job for another 15 months.  Over time, the job changed from the opportunity to really help customers to an outbound call center.  I do not have the right temperament to work in a call center, but I kept going in while trying to find something else.

In the meantime, my daughter came to live with me.  She had been living with her dad before then.  Although he is happy to have her here, he refuses to sign her over to me unless I agree not to file against him for child support.  I won’t agree so he retains custody, but I now have all the expense and other costs of being a parent.  My daughter has had some trauma in her life and is diagnosed with PTSD.  How is that relevant?  Well, between my boss’s dislike of my unsuitability to the job and the impact that caring for a PTSD person had on things like sleeping and my morning routine, I got fired.

The official reason for being fired was consistent lateness.  Well, the biggest single factor for that is that I don’t own a car.  This is not a choice so much as an economic necessity.  That means I rely on DART to get to work, and DART is not reliable.  On good days, it took about 45 minutes to get to work.  If connections didn’t work, which was at least once a week, I could be 15 or 20 minutes late.  If the bus was early or I was late, well, rush hour buses in Dallas are half an hour apart so I would be something like 45 minutes late, or an hour if the connections didn’t work.  Since DART’s poor scheduling is out of my control, and since the company knew when they hired me that I was a DART rider, the unemployment office honored my request for payment.

I didn’t expect to be unemployed this long.  I got my first job when I was 16, so I’ve been working for close to 35 years now.  Except for those times when I was a full time student and when I was an at-home mom of a preschooler, I have had a job.  It’s weird to me that I don’t even get called for interviews any more.  I haven’t had an interview since October.

About 5 years ago I got laid off from a government job.  At that time, when unemployment ran out, you got an extension.  Sometimes there were issues with the timing, that is, I’d run out just after the extension period ended so I’d keep requesting payments but no money was sent to me.  Then another extension would be approved and I’d be caught up for missed payments.  Once money was awarded to you, it was sent to you util the money ran out, even if the extension qualification period ended.

This time, I have come to the end of unemployment and there is no extension.  Don’t get me wrong.  I went to the web site and at that time it still said Tier 1 and Tier 2 extensions were available.  My benefits ran out 12/17, but last day to request payment was 12/22, almost a week later.  That meant that instead of getting paid for 2 weeks, I’d only get paid for 1.  Well, really, right ahead of Christmas, right ahead of rent due on the first, and for me right ahead of my lease renewing which included a 10% increase plus pet rent.  (We have a new management company so the pet rent is a new policy on pets that have lived here with me for 2 years already.)  Very bad timing to have a delay in getting paid.

So I called the unemployment office to see if there was any way to expedite the process.  I went round and round with the lady, who kept telling me that there were no extensions after the 28th.  I told her that my benefits would run out well in advance of the 28th and she kept insisting that I wouldn’t get an extension.  Finally I explained to her that I had been unemployed before for an extended period of time and that in the past, as long as I was qualified before the cut off date, I would get the extension.  The lady put me on hold for several minutes.  When she came back, she told me that she consulted her supervisor who told her that per the Federal government, even if I qualified for the extension, no funds could be disbursed after 12/28.

Let me say that again.  I would probably qualify for the extension based on the available guidelines however the Federal government would not allow states to issue payment to claimants after December 28 even if they had already qualified and been awarded funds.

So I have applied to the government for welfare now, since I have to feed and house my child.  I had the interview for that this morning.  I need to gather further information for some of the programs, but it looks like food stamps could be awarded to me as soon as tomorrow. It will take another couple of days to get the card, but that’s okay, I can live with that.

The irony for my ex husband?  TANF is considered a child support program.  They require me to file with the attorney general for the collection of child support in order to qualify.  Also, since I don’t have health insurance at this time, if I qualify for Medicaid, that cost too can be passed on the my ex.  (Actually, I think that’s unreasonable.  He’s responsible for his child, sure; but 10 years after the divorce is final, I hardly think he should be responsible for my health insurance.)  So he could have agreed to child support, or he could have signed her over to me without even mentioning child support, but he had to stand on his principles.  And I simply won’t give away any of my daughter’s rights to child support, which worked in my favor because it means I’m not going against court orders to qualify for assistance.

So that’s how is happens.  That’s how people become poor.  I’m not whining, I’m not looking for pity, I’m just telling my story.