“I’m not such a bad person; I just have some bad situations.”
This story is from the Invisible Project, a collaboration between the Welcome Project and Porter County Coalition for Affordable Housing, Housing Opportunities, Gabriel’s Horn, Dayspring Women’s Center, and Porter County Museum.
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Transcript for Made Us Feel Low
It’s difficult to be poor in the USA. When you go into an apartment complex, and you ask for income-based housing, you’re automatically put into a category. You’re automatically separated from the rest of society. They treat you differently. Even to get an application is difficult, but when you get the application, and you sit down to try to write it out, there’s no one to help you. My niece is—has special needs. She has learning problems. She is considered retarded. And her husband went to the Portage Township because they were being evicted from their apartment. They went for help. And they didn’t get any help because they didn’t understand how to fill out the application. No one offered to help them. They were sitting there struggling, and finally just gave up.
I look at the example of Housing Opportunities when I filled out my application for housing. They were kind, respectful, honest, and compassionate. When I filled out my application for the food pantry in Portage, she wanted to know why we were doing—you know, why my daughter didn’t have a job. Why I didn’t have a job. You know, it wasn’t enough just to answer the questions. I almost felt like we were being interrogated about our decisions in life. It was kind of a very humiliating situation because Portage does have a really nice food pantry, and you get some really nice things, but it was being abused by people who didn’t really live in the area, or just lying on their applications. And so, because of that, now we have to go to the Portage Township, and we have to get a waiver.
So my daughter and I went to the Portage Township, and because my daughter is in school full time and she’s not working—the lady who took our application just didn’t understand that. Didn’t understand why I wasn’t working, didn’t understand why my daughter wasn’t working. She made us feel very low. She made us feel kind of bad about ourselves. We felt bad about ourselves after we left, that we had to go to that person. It made me kind of angry afterwards in the car. I’m like, ‘I don’t want to go to that person and ask for help because they help you, but they do it begrudgingly.’ And it’s because of people who take advantage of the system. I know that, but I just think they could be a little nicer. Poor people are looked down upon so badly, that we’re just trash. And that we’ve done something bad in our lives, or we’re bad people because we’ve ended up in a certain situation. Well, guess what? There’s a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck. I let myself get knocked down sometimes—I do. But then I have to go to my self—my inner self, my inner strength, and I have to look at my—I have to almost take myself out of my situation, and really look at it, and ask myself, ‘Am I doing everything possible that I can to support myself and my children. Am I doing everything possible I can to advance my life—my lifestyle and my life?’ And I am. I’m doing everything I can. I’m not such a bad person. I just have some bad situations.