The Alarm and the Cost of Poverty

We started today 1 person down on staff, so we prepared to be busy.  Then the alarm went off.  This alarm is part of our fire/security system, but specifically, it was a warning that either a breaker tripped or that the transformer was down… except it wasn’t the breaker.  It makes this shrill beeping about every 10 seconds.  It’s loud.  It would drive anyone crazy.  Today it was beeping in a center full of people with all kinds of difficulties.

I tried every phone number on the box, all lead me to tech. support that couldn’t help.  Tried the number on the security panel, disconnected.  Luckily my friend who works for 911 happened to stop by and was able to find out when the last time the alarm was tripped, and who came to set it back.  From there, we actually got a hold of the person we needed to, and could end this hellish beeping that had now plagued us for 2 hours.  It was shaking my nerves.

The story is actually longer and more tedious than that, but I don’t have the energy to write anymore on the subject.  Needless to say, alarm systems are loud and annoying for a reason.  They’re made to make you shake, want to get away from them, and to scare people off.  In the meantime, the needs were great and continuous, and there were moments when I was on the phone, while getting something for someone, while someone else was calling me on the other phone, while the doorbell rang.  It was that kind of day.

I saw my awesome therapist today, and we had a delightful conversation where I recanted this hellish day, and then sang my husband’s praises as a human being for the rest of it.  My therapist does a lot of couple’s counseling and said it was nice to hear that there are couples who are really working out.  I told him that I wouldn’t know how to teach that, but he’s my hero for trying to teach others how to do that.  I feel like too many couples don’t allow each other to be human beings.  Maybe I’m just lucky, and found the perfect one.  As I say, lots of people have husbands, but I have the best one.

I then solved the mystery of “why my registration hasn’t come in the mail”.  The answer to that is: it was time for a new license plate.  I didn’t really  know that was a thing, and no one sent me any kind of notice, but I was glad that I found out and had the cash to pay for it, because it could have been a shock had I not been prepared.  I’m the proud owner of a plate that won’t get me pulled over by being an outdated plate now.  Adulting- level up!

That leads me into this: has anyone ever noticed how incredibly difficult it can be to keep all of your balls in the air as a grown ass person?  The car payments, insurance, maintenance, inspections, plates, registrations, taxes?  The rent/mortgage, insurance, termite inspection, all the bills, stuff break down, taxes?  The career/job, performance review, 24-7 responsibility, deadlines, taxes? The kids, childcare, school, the dog, the cat, the bird, the yard, the trash, the housekeeping, taxes.  How do we all do it?

One thing that I’ve noticed is that it’s easier to keep all of these systems going than it is to lose one and try to get it back.  That’s the cycle of poverty; if you’ve never lived it, it’s built so that you lose one of these things, and it takes heaven and Earth to get it back.  Being poor is incredibly expensive.  We see it with our people all of the time.  Why are homeless people homeless?  Easy, someone steals your stuff at the shelter, and suddenly you’re a person with no ID, birth certificate or social security card.  Then you can’t work until you get it all back, but all of it costs money, that you don’t have, because you can’t work.

Let’s say you have a car.  Now you don’t have a license to drive your car, you get pulled over, you get a ticket for not having a license and whatever else is wrong with your car (like your headlight).  Then you have to pay a fine or go to court.  Both cost money.  If you do neither, you have fines following you around or you get a “Failure to Appear”, and that costs even more money.  Everything then costs more, and finally you lose your car.  Now you have nothing.  Then the shelter kicks you out for being late for curfew.  Now you really have nothing.

I hear stories like this every single day.  Bank accounts overdrawn that then put a $35 overdraft fee on them, with another fee on top of that, and so the next money you put into your account is gone before you can pay a bill.  Why use the account at all, then?  So you pay to get your check cashed elsewhere, pay extra for the money-order, and pay off the bill that way.  Now you’ve spent an extra $18 to pay a bill, but that’s better than the $45 you owe the bank.

The parameters required for being a functioning member of our capitalistic society are so very small.  You have to be on top of your game 24-7, or have the money to pay for that thing you let slip.  It’s built to make it as hard as humanly possible to succeed, and to then add additional hardship on top of that.  Ever had a credit check and realize you have no credit even though you’ve been paying bills for years?  I have.  It happened to me.  Paying your bills is good, because that just means no credit.  Not paying your bills means bad credit.  Notice how there is a penalty, but no reward?  Borrow a ton of money?  Instant reward on levels.  You get money, and if you pay it back timely, you get credit.  Why does it work that way?

I see people, every day, who just can’t dig out of the hole they’re in.  They had family members who took out credit cards in their names when they were teenagers, maxed them out, then never paid them.  They started life in debt with terrible credit.  They started life disabled, with nothing but a disability check and no one to help care for them.  They started life with a mental illness that alienated the family they did have, and are too young (or too mentally ill) to make it without some serious adult support.  They went to jail as a teen and own money to the courts out the ass.  I see all of these things all of the time.

Know that the decisions you make for your kids can truly make a difference in if they become homeless or not.  If you kick out your argumentative teenager, there is a good chance that the next few decisions they make will define the next decade of their lives.  If you want to simply watch them crash and burn because you “want to be right” SO BAD, then you may actually get your wish, it could happen, but is that truly what you wanted as a parent?  Does that really make you happy?  Did “you show them”?  What if I told you that your little girl was turning tricks for crack?  What if I told you that your son just asked me for clean needles?  What if, in a split second, your withdrawal of general support breaks that young person.  It’s something to think about.