What am I talking about? Well recently, after losing my job, my fiancé made a strong case for moving in with her at her parent's house. This would of course be temporary, because I'd immediately start job hunting, and house hunting. Jobs, well they're apparently not as easy to find as I thought. I have yet to get a single call back despite an ungodly number of applications put in. Housing. . . well I don't exactly have a security deposit and first and last month's rent just laying around do I?
Enter some of the Veteran specific programs. At first I was blown away that some of these even existed, and I was also having a bit of an issue accepting all the various forms of help offered. After all I wasn't really Audie Murphy, I topped out at E-4, and aside from a CMB don't really have any awards to speak of. I'm not that special, but here were programs to help me get a degree, get a certification, get a house, get a job, hell one of the programs it almost sounded like the government would bribe the company to hire me.
One of the things that particularly pinged my spider sense was the Housing support. Now for the record I think that we should do everything to help homeless people. Period. Unless a person really does want to live in the woods under a tent, every effort should be made to secure them a clean habitation that they can call their own. However, the process of qualifying me for these programs struck me as. . . not right. For one, I'm technically homeless. I understand living in my fiancé's parents' basement is by no stretch of the imagination ideal, I do have a place to call home for the time being, but, according to the government I'm homeless. That. . . really doesn't sit well with me.
Adding to the not rightness, if I were to add my fiancé's income to my own we would actually make too much to qualify for assistance. This kind of bothers me, because my income alone would be nowhere near adequate to sustain a home. Even if I got a semi decent paying job tomorrow, I probably wouldn't be able to sustain the home by myself. The real screwy part is that her income isn't enough to move out either. Based solely on her income she could not move out today. This makes no sense. I'll get help getting a place I may not be able to pay rent on? In order to "work the system" I have to get the job after I get housing, and there's something about this that seems in a macrocosm to be a recipe for disaster.
Yes I have no doubt once I get a place, and a job my fiancé and I could support it together no problem, but in order to get that place I need to be so bad off that I probably couldn't have supported the move. At one point I was even given a story of a Veteran who needed help getting a place but didn't qualify because he wasn't screwed up enough. As an added bonus I need to eventually get a letter from my fiancé's parents acting as an eviction notice. I know that they'd let me stay till I was on my feet. I know there's no animosity, but thats what the program requires. It makes me uneasy. My integrity is one of the few things I can claim, and this requirement makes me feel compromised. Everyone else is shrugging and saying "that's the system" but to me there's more to it than that.
It really makes you wonder, how many people need this program more than me, but can't use it because they make too much, or aren't hurt enough? How many people served honorably but just never deployed, now can't get the help they need? It made me feel positively like a crook. I had an image of Hamburgler in my mind, sneaking away with a bag of money and keys to a place while some other poor sap was working a dead end job living in a crack house because that's all he could afford. Now maybe that's a touch dramatic but the feeling stuck with me. As if to add insult to injury it was strongly suggested that I get food stamps.
I'd almost rather the State give me a loan. Say "you don't have enough for your security deposit, ok, here is $XXX.XX, we'll give this to you now and repayment can be deferred for 1 year." That makes tons of sense to me. That way it's not a hand out it's a hand up. I don't feel like I'm lying, and the income requirement could be way more flexible. That way the Veterans that don't qualify for the emergency programs get some form of assistance, and don't feel like beggars in the process. The State would have a vested interest in positive outcomes, and the individual would have a vested interest in earning more money. Win, win. Right?
In the end, perhaps the hardest part of this whole ordeal is asking for help. Yes my job was a dead end job. Yes, after losing it, I had zero plans. But in my entire life, I've never been on food stamps. I've never been on welfare, or unemployment. I took that as a point of pride. If I'd received a government benefit it was something that I'd earned, and because I had earned it I had no guilt or qualms. Admitting that I failed, that I'd gone so long without a support system, and just could not go any further, that really stings. Still does. I'm glad these programs are here to help, but, as a person, that I need them at all feels like admitting defeat. Still. I may be down, but I'm not out yet.