The Slavery of Freedom

Not a lot has happened of any consequence since the last time I posted, except for a followup to the original News & Record story. The article states that I've been considering stopping the blog. I figured I'd said all that needs to be said and I didn't want to wear out my welcome by becoming yet another "I-did-this-and-then-I-did-that-but-it's-all-boring-and-the-exciting-bits-are-made-up-anyway" blog. C'mon, you've got better things to do with your Web time.

However, I occasionally have a thing or two to say, so maybe I'll continue just a bit longer.

Today's offering is twofold, but both borne of the same incident. We were in the Greensboro Housing Authority offices for recertification today. For the uninitiated, each year we have to report our income and family composition -- prove that we're still poor enough to live in the projects*, if you will -- which determines if our rent will stay the same, increase or we'll be booted out altogether.

The first realization came as I was filling out the reporting forms and looking over the voluminous rules and regulations the office receptionist handed me. I realized that although my family is living in the most free nation on earth (arguably), we are not free.

Gasp! Horrors! Must be one'a those pinko reds!

Wait, put down the pitchforks and I'll explain. It occurred to me that if I owned my own home, I would not have to do this every year. My private affairs would be just those: my private affairs. How much money I made and how I made it would be my business. Who I had over and why they were there would be my business. What Mama does in her spare time during the day when I'm at work and the kids were in school would be her business. Where the kids went to school and how well they were doing would be their business. Our lives would be -- our lives.

Instead, we have to report on our financial and some social activities to the Overlords, in order to keep a roof over our heads and heat around our bodies. And if we don't report, the roof and heat immediately go away. In addition, we have to submit to inspections pretty much whenever management feels like it; report if I make more money, temporarily or not; report who in the house is working and why or why not; how well the kids are doing in school and why or why not; and always, always dread the next inspection or recertification where we may have forgotten to dot some arcane i or cross some obsolete t that'll land us right back on the street.

I pass by houses every day and I envy those within. Sure, they have their own set of problems, but they're not sweating losing their home just because they can finally tell some bigwig "none of your business" when s/he wants to go poking into their private affairs.

Yes, I can almost hear the rebuttals: "But you're better off than when you were homeless." "But at least you have a roof over your head." "At least you're still alive." "Well, you got to go through some of that if people are helping you." But show of hands, now: how many of you like having to strip naked -- socially speaking -- for whoever orders you to do it "or else"?

The other thing came from a poster I saw on the wall at the GHA offices. It was a PSA** for health care services. The headline was "Poverty Doesn't Make You Sick, But It Can Keep You From Getting Well." How sadly true, but I submit to you that poverty can indeed make you sick.

Poverty can make you mentally sick by making you worry all the time. About money. About the rest of the family's health. About who's going to screw you today, or tomorrow. About the bills piling up. About everything in the universe that you could knock out of the way if you just had your hands on some money. And some people wonder why others play the lottery. All that worry leads to stress, and all that stress leads to...

Poverty can make you physically ill as well. Most of it comes from the mental stress that builds up over worrying about money so much. It's been scientifically proven that stress makes you fat and does horrible things to your immune system. In addition, poor people can't buy the right kinds of food -- fresh fruits, vegetables, foods with low fat and high nutritional content, even dietetic foods -- because they're more expensive. So we end up eating the wrong things. Pretty soon, you're flat on your back with a bug, a stroke or a heart attack. Or you're listening to your doctor (if you can afford to see one) utter those dread words "it's Type 2 Diabetes. There's no cure."

So to sum, I say that poverty can make you very sick indeed. It can also make you a slave. And neither prospect is very pleasant.

* The irony being, of course, that if we were making enough money to leave the projects, we would've long since left.
** Public Service Announcement, but you knew that already, didn't you?

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What price freedom? Love your "strip naked" analogy. I believe in less taxes, less government and so being at the mercy of the system, is an awful feeling, but being inside is better than sleeping on cold concrete.

You might think of it as "a game", those requiring all that info, need to do that stuff as part of their job. Wonder how many of them get Lottery tickets on payday.

Often wondered why food that is healthy for bodies costs more than those that aren't. Found that by eliminating meat from grocery list, could buy more vegatables and fruit. For what it is worth.
I believe that we are all slaves in one way or another.
A slave to a job, to a person, to a lifestyle...
I'm a slave to my medication that keeps me alive. But, alas, I am happy to be alive.
I hope you do continue this blog. I think it's very important to share your story.

I read your post today (and that news article) and it really struck me deep inside. My mom and I had some really bad times when I was a child. Living in a car in the park. Living in shacks. I say poverty DOES MAKE you sick. We had no heat in our leaky shack of a house and no hot water. Because of that I was sick constantly with bad colds. I could go on and on w/ examples, but you know about it.

My heart ached when I read your post. I hope and pray things get better for you. Hang in there. :)
Hi Michael,

I found your blog through the News & Record story, and I really love it. I also hope you continue to post.

Right now I'm working on putting together a story about homeless bloggers for NowPublic.com, we're a news website where anyone can post their news and views (and photos, and video...) freely. Check out the site to see what I mean.

Would you be interested in being profiled in my story about homeless bloggers? I think your story is incredible. Email me at kfontana@nowpublic.com to let me know what you think.

Take care,
Man, why don't you get your own website? This blogging company is getting rich off YOUR content. Are you getting any advertising revenue? You've been in the newspaper and are probably getting a few thousand views a day; did you know that? While you slave away at a wal-mart.
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Just because you are homeless, doesn't give someone the right to take away your dignity.

Granted - this is just my opinion, but I think continuing to write about what people have to go through to come back from homelessness would be a worthwhile subject to write on. We're not talking about looking gift horses in the mouth - but making sure that people understand that it is not as easy as just getting public assistance to "bounce back" - there are a lot of terms and conditions that you have to meet.

And then there is that dreaded black hole (hopefully you avoid it)- where you don't make enough to go without assistance, but you make too much according to the people giving assistance to get their help - which can put some people right back to where they were and begins the cycle all over again. Some people seem to give up all hope after a while and just "give in" so to speak. Some people are able to slowly struggle their way out of that black hole, but it is HARD to do and it takes an incredible toll on them.

I hope you don't have to experience that. But I hope you will consider continuing to write about your experiences and your struggle back from that deep dark place. Though you are through the roughest part, it looks like you aren't completely out of the woods yet. I personally, would like to see the end of the story... ;)
Got here too late I guess...
I completely agree with your post. The things THEY demand from those who need help. The answers they want, the hoops to jump through. I've done it many years of my life. And now my brother is doing it.. as a single father of two. I hope things get better for you...
This is my first visit to your blog, but it won't be the last. Hope you don't mind.
Great blog, great information
While reading your blog I felt many things. First, you should know that I am a social work student in a urban area. I also work in a junior high and see the children of poverty and it is devastating. I know all to well about homelessness also becasue I am working at a place that helps the homeless in our area. As far as having to report any changes in your income I read that and felt that it seems that the government is trying to keep you down. It does not seem like they want you to succeed. That is really sad and unfortunate. When and how does the cycle end than? I think they should let you live where you are living for several years and let you save and make as much money as you can so you can buy that house we all dream about owning. Than the next family can move in and the cycle goes on. I guess this may be elementary in the thinking, but dosn't support mean helping and assisting while a person is down and getting them back on their feet and independent again. Call me crazy.
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