Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Importance of Being the Right Kind Of Poor Person

So I had my interview with the housing fairies today. It went well, I think. I should know more on Thursday. I also got some information about this particular program. For one thing, it's funded with the Obama stimulus money. If I get accepted, does that mean I have to suddenly change my mind about the crappiness that is His Royal Hopiness? No, because this is not a program for poor people, not for chronically poor people anyways. it's meant for those of us whose bootstraps are merely short instead of non-existent (or more aptly, attached to the boot currently on our throats). 

I have to hope that I am the "good" kind of poor person. Not too sick, physically or mentally. Able to work long hours at whatever crappy job for less than a living wage that you can find. Not too angry, not too sad. Poor but without a lot of the trademarks of poverty like a horrible credit report, suspended drivers license, criminal history, an eviction. No self-medicating the pain and stress away with drugs or alcohol. Not too old, not too young, not poor for too long. Situational, as opposed to chronic poverty. But we all know that the situation has been bad for us on the bottom for so long that it is now chronic. 

Still, I'll take what I can get. As far as poor people go, I am middling between good and bad. I have no addiction problems, at least not the ones that get you in trouble (caffeine and nicotine aside). I speak with an educated, middle-class diction and present as professional. My credit history is atrocious, but what I owe is a fraction of what is owed me in back child support. But the longer I am poor, the harder it is for me to put on the hopeful sunshine face and swallow my anger about the system in the presence of the workers who gatekeep help. 

But like I said, I find out Thursday if I am the right kind of poor person. It means we start looking for a home of our own right away, and we get a year of help with rent. So think happy thoughts. But even if I am the right kind of poor, or at least pass for the right kind of poor, I can't stop writing and thinking and fighting for those who aren't the right kind. It's just a matter of time and continued lack of real change on the part of the audacious powers that be before I am the wrong kind of poor. 

(eta: It also helps that i am a white woman when I apply for these programs, and it would be disingenuous of me to ignore that. I get better services purely because of my race and class markers. )

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