Tuesday, February 9, 2016

poverty and homelessness

Today I was reading a Washington Post article about Los Angeles in which it appeared that Los Angeles had decided it wanted to fix the homeless problem. The problem was correctly identified as high rents that drove people out of homes and onto the streets. Combined with the continuing poor economy and the fake goverment figures relating to unemployment, this is a silent and growing problem.

The government likes to quote unemployment figures but they mean nothing. After 20 weeks, unemployment insurance expires and people just drop off the books. The real figure is the number of people receiving food stamps. That figure is far too big to sound good as government propaganda though. Needless to say, with the continuing unemployment crisis, people are driven onto the streets and into low-paying part-time work.

For myself, I was paying rent to a slum lord. My old job ended when the company closed the local premises and the only place where I could have transferred was in Vermont - over a thousand miles away. At the time I was doing a course in Medical Coding and Billing with Midlands Tech. Leaving to go to Vermont would have meant abandoning the course and the promise of a better job. Sadly and despite all the promises it turned out that the jobs were a myth and the college had taken my money and left me no better off. 

Having spent a while unemployed and living off savings, I eventually found a part-time position in an after school program. The work is school time only and only four hours a day. The wage per hour is OK but it would not pay rent. During a month when I would be paid for 5 days a week, every week then I'd make $195 more in wages (before tax) than my already low rent cost. That's not enough to cover the expense of getting to and from work. Even with the current $1.50 a gallon I'm spending $100 a month in fuel alone. Add in insurance, tax and other necessities and I was subsidising the local economy from savings. When the schools are not in session, I don't get paid and don't get unemployment either - that was exhausted in 2014.

As part of my solution, my dad gave me money to buy an old bus. I put all the work in, converting it into a motorhome, using my wages and remaining savings to do this. Meanwhile, food stamps help with immediate food issues. 

Of course, during all this I find Bank of America seems to have been deducting $12 a month from my bank account. I gather they call this a charge for having a positive bank account. Clearly they think somebody living on $6,600 a year can afford to subsidise them. Needless to say, they're losing me as a customer.

Now for those that wonder about whether I'm applying for jobs - yes I am. At least I think I am. I am not convinced that any of this online job application stuff is actually genuine. Nobody seems to take real applications any more. I could fill a book with copies of all the spam and junk these applications generate. I've learned not to proceed with adverts that look like they're from agencies as the positions advertised by agencies never actually seem to exist. Indeed, I won't go near agencies now - based on a lot of experience of their time-wasting worthlessness. Then there're the fake jobs advertised on general careers websites. Rejection emails sent after 10:30PM on a Friday night when the company is local and closes at about 6pm prove the futility of careers websites. Another example - I was talking to somebody in an HR office one day and somebody came in to enquire if their application had been received. The person asked checked and apparently it had not yet the application had apparently been sent on that occasion via Careerbuilder. I've applied for jobs on Careerbuilder, Dice, Indeed, SCWorks (which most of the time defaults to Careerbuilder) and a few other sites. In 2 years, the only interview has been for the part-time job I now do.

Some will ask about education yet this is not a problem. I am highly qualified with both US and European qualifications to graduate level. The problem is more basic than that. As far as I can see, there just aren't the jobs available. Just about every careers place seems to be filled with fake jobs and agencies advertising non-existent positions just to grab resumes. It's all extremely depressing and demoralising. This is most definitely not the American dream. Indeed, I have a feeling that the vast majority of Americans really are struggling. The Washington Post article on homelessness today proves that. They had a further article a few days ago in which provisions were being made in one area for Americans living out of vehicles and out of tents. 

My answer to my own problem is a motorhome built from a schoolbus. The alternative is the streets. At least if I can find a job in a different area, I can go and take my home with me. I have a feeling South Carolina is a rotten place to look for work given that 34% of the population is on some form of public assistance.

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