Friday, May 30, 2014

The abuse...

You know as I sit here today, infuriated, it is hard to not come completely unglued.  I have good reason as well, trust me, if you were in my shoes, you would be outraged yourself.

SO as many of you know, I spent much of the past few years homeless.  This blog comes to you via the campground internet, where I house my own tent.  Many times I dodge the question, or dodge saying it, but really, the truth is never quite as nice as the pictures we paint.

What most people are completely ignorant to about being homeless or even poor for that matter is we get abused.  At one point I was unable to pay rent for my swag little tent site with power, cable, and internet.  Of course the landlord being perfectly happy as a good christian, was willing to allow my mother (70 years old) and myself to clean bathrooms daily for a grand total of fifty dollars a month.  Of course, my mother and I started getting roped into helping with other things (putting stock away in the store, dragging out the pump from the septic tank, etc).

Along the way, we started helping out by cleaning up brush piles that were unsightly snake havens, and ultimately, we ended up doing all the yard work.  Now, I want you all to think about how much you pay someone to cut your yard?  How much would you would charge to cut your neighbors grass.  People who are working off their rent, guess what?  They don't get paid anywhere near that number.

We cut the grass, trimmed weeds and the like.  We were paid (well it was taken off our rent) a whopping hundred dollars a week, not each but between us (so that is fifty dollars each).  And God almighty if someone didn't get it perfect each week, or missed a spot one week.  We heard all about it, constantly until it was finished. Now, I know what most will say, simply move on.  Sure, but diabetics need power to keep insulin.

But I am not talking about just my story, but a story of many people.  See when you are poor, or homeless, you have fewer options available.  Sure, quit that job, what do you have?  Bills and no income.  People say McDonald's, Wal-Mart, gas stations are always hiring, but it really is based on your location.  People think their little microcosm of the nation applies everywhere.  What is going on in Colorado Springs, isn't what is happening in Beckley.  What happens in Beckley is not what happens in Colorado Springs.

So, the poor are abused, the homeless are also abused.  When I was the working poor, with a home I constantly had my job held over my head.  It was held there, knowing that I wouldn't be able to just find something else, there was nothing else.  Being a responsible type, I was not about to chance a bird in the bush, for the bird I had in my hand.  Which sucked, because even while I was looking, I could just never find a job that paid better.  The story of so many people who are poor.

Then I became homeless, and did not make enough to get into a place.  My boss knew.  Eventually I came to a place where I worked off my rent.  It took cleaning bathrooms, it took doing all the yard work, it took being  a slave for rent.  And that was fine, it offered a chance to start digging out, slowly building something up from nothing.  You know, that pull yourself up by the boot straps, and you will overcome with true grit, hard work and determination.  But I never could quite get there.

So, early this spring I was told I would no longer be allowed to work off the rent.  Well, except cleaning the bathrooms.  I redoubled my effort to find work, managed to get "official copies" of my transcripts.  Managed to briefly become debt free.  Sure, we had to get rid of one of the vehicles we owned, but we were there for a few weeks.  But few people want to hire you when you list your contact address as a PO Box.  But remember I was working nearly forty hours a week, along with my mother for four hundred fifty dollars a month.  I worked for $2.18 cents an hour.  Many people do, we just don't hear about it.

So where does my rage come in, where is the abuse, outside of that?  Today I awaken to the sound of a lawnmower running.  It was not the one I weekly last year, this was a different one.  I look out my window and I see a new mower, and someone I didn't know.  So I took a walk out to see what was going on.  Most people would.  I am pissed, because this guy was contracted to mow the grass (you know the job I was forbade to do).  As we spoke, he let slip what he was being paid.  Where I had to do all the lawn work for one hundred dollars a week, every week rain or shine.  This man is getting five hundred dollars a week to do the same things my Mother and I were.

Think about that for a moment.  He is being paid sixteen hundred dollars more for mowing the grass, the very same job my mother and I were being paid four hundred for.  Put yourself in my position, how would you feel?  Would you feel abused?  Would you be angry?  I would put good money, if I had money at all, that you would be irate.  You would be livid.

I mentioned it to a friend, and she become so infuriated on my behalf that she could barely keep coherent statements together.  Honestly I think she briefly considered tossing the computer screen.  Imagine, if I had been given a fair shake, being paid five hundred dollars a week (still fifteen hundred a month after rent), what could I have accomplished with that?  Within two months (April and May of last year) been nearly debt free.  Rather than giving away an older vehicle, it could have been repaired and sold.  I might have even been able to save enough to get out of a tent, into a camper, or maybe even a small home.  It would have made getting a job slightly easier.  Certainly I wouldn't have been haunting food banks, or been begging for money.  It would have had about what I had been making at my minimum wage paying job.

But it just goes to show you, no matter how much hard work you put out there, if you aren't getting a fair shake while working, you won't make it.