Tales From the Projects: A Life In Poverty – Week 2
The projects is a term used to describe government-owned housing where rent is based on income and the rest is subsidized. This is the diary of one woman living in the projects of a small midwestern city of 45,000. It is at some points boring and mundane, some points may be hard to read, but all of it is true.
Friday and Saturday: This weekend all blurred together. I spent it playing spades with the neighbors, hanging out with the inlaws, and of course, playing with the baby. The cops were out here again patrolling the grounds for no discernible reason for an hour or so. They stopped to ask one kid where he lived and who lived with him but didn’t talk to anyone else as far as I can tell. I was irritated they were asking the kid such personal questions without a parent present but I wasn’t about to confront any cops so I just seethed internally.
Sunday: I laid down with my one-year-old son when he went for his nap. As he curled up next to me and drifted off I couldn’t help but be in awe of how perfect he is. All my hopes, dreams, and fears for his future came rushing forward as he slept obliviously in my arms. I just want the best life for him and I can’t help but wonder if I’ll be able to provide that for him.
Monday thru Thursday: I’ve been too depressed to journal, but I’ll give you the rundown. Found out my paycheck for the week, after they took out for medical bills I apparently owe from forever ago, is $57. My rent is based on gross pay, so even in income based housing, I can’t afford rent if I’m going to keep working. Not working my rent was zero, so working is actually putting me in more debt than not working and just relying on the kindness of my fiance’s family. I just want to succeed and be a productive member of society and it looks like I can’t.
Came home from work one day and the neighbors said the cops were looking for me. All but one stuck to “the code” and said they didn’t know me. The one that did say something told them exactly where I live and all sorts of personal info. I had no idea why the cops were looking for me, but I knew it couldn’t be good. Turns out I was partially right. They wanted to serve me a subpoena to testify against my ex who stole my car and then stole it again out of police impound. The cop came at 7:40 am central time and I was supposed to be in Kalamazoo, Michigan by 1:30 PM eastern time. I don’t live in Michigan. I called and they said they’d request a continuance and if they needed me to testify I’d be given more notice. They even said they would pay part of the cost to get me there. Yippee. Part of the cost. As if my $57 a week can afford any bit of travel to Michigan. If I don’t go I go to jail, but I literally have no way to afford to go.
A church group member who brings bag lunches to us twice a week came by looking for some basketballs he left here. He actually picked up a two-year-old neighbor and asked her to point out where his basketballs were. Of course, she was terrified some strange man was picking her up but I guess he felt entitled because he feeds her twice a week. When you’re poor and someone helps you, they seem to always feel some sense of ownership of you. I’m sick of not feeling like my own person because I owe something to society for not letting me starve. I’m sick of people thinking they’re entitled to touch our kids because they hand out ham sandwiches. I’m just sick and tired of being poor.
I’m seeing a doctor now for my back problems so he can hopefully make it so the constant pain I’m in is bearable enough to work more hours. I don’t know how I’ll afford diapers otherwise. I’m hoping I don’t have to take anything habit forming. My mother was an addict and watching her go from prescription drugs to heroin has convinced me it is not something I want for my family. Still, I need to work, and I can’t with all this pain. Here’s hoping my story has a better ending than her’s did.