Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Austerity Measures: How Low Can You Go?

Austerity measures.  Restraint. Simplicity. These are words that are often unpopular in a culture like the U.S. that places a high value on affluence. Indeed those of us that fall below the poverty line, are excluded from most activities because we can't afford to engage. We're also excluded from political discussions, especially if we're single and poor. Discussions regarding tax breaks and various rights that the United States provides to its citizens are geared towards middle-income families. Poor single woman are not even part of the discussion and largely invisible.

I have a confession to make, being chronically ill and broke is embarrassing. It probably sounds crazy, but I am ashamed of my poverty. This is why I often don't date or socialize, in addition to being not able to afford it. That said, I am fortunate I enjoy living simply. I'm creative and able to create an environment I find pleasing with little to no money.

I have a question for my loyal readers, how far can you go? If you had a choice between living in public housing and having a little extra money; or living in a nice neighborhood with an expensive apartment and money to do little else than pay your rent - which would you choose?

I have lived in public housing. I was grateful for my apartment, but believe me public housing is no fun. There is no privacy. Residents were disrespected by management. At best, we were treated like children. At worst, we were treated like criminals as the staff acted like jailors. New rules were posted on door everyday, cameras watched our every move, our places were inspected continually by various agencies (including DEA dogs) often without notice. We were subject to constant ruthless audits. And the noise. The noise of frustration and hopelessness is deafening. Increasingly, I watched children turn to crime, and have even been their victim.  I watched 100% (no hyperbole) of teenage girls get on the school bus carrying an infant.

I now understand why realtors use the mantra "location location location." I am blessed now to live in a nice neighborhood. People are quiet, polite and respectful. They still drive like maniacs but there's a beautiful thing here you might have heard of:  sidewalks. And, oh yeah, trees.

In order to live in this neighborhood I have had to make many sacrifices. When I first moved here I had no furniture and slept on the floor. I had no electricity for several days.

There are many things I sacrifice in order to be able to pay rent.  Here is a list of some of the things I live without:  a car, a microwave, a computer, a television, cable. In addition I do my own hair.  The most difficult sacrifice I make is that I seldom buy new clothes. This is really tough because I love fashion. I almost never go out to eat or to a movie. I do not have a pet.

We live in a land of abundance and beautiful things and we are bombarded with enticing images. I wish my digital device didn't provide me constant ads for vases. It pisses me off that the internet knows my weaknesses and preys upon them.

Luckily, I like simplicity and minimalism. Also I am grateful that family and friends donated furniture to help me make this apartment a home.

Still, I confront my greed on a daily basis. The list of things I desire is long. I am endeavoring to appreciate what I have, rather than focusing on what I lack.

So my question dear readers, is how far would you go if you were in a circumstance where you came face to face with the possibility of homelessness?

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