Tag Archive | food stamps


It was a quarter to 10 on Thursday morning. I knew my parking meter allotment was just running out as I checked the time.

If I left to feed the meter, I might have been called forth. If I stayed, it’s possible that a meter maid might not have been checking my car by the time I was done. I did get the parking ticket, as luck would have it, but I don’t think it could have been helped.

All the while, I was losing time at work. I sat there hoping I wasn’t going to lose my job as  a result of this absence, despite letting the instructor know the day before that I had things I needed to take care of.

All I could think was, I shouldn’t even be here.

I was sitting in the county’s government building, waiting for a response to the application I had submitted for temporary public assistance. It was your standard bureaucratic waiting room: uncomfortable plastic and metal chairs, posters with phone numbers to call for other services offered by the same or similar departments, tile flooring, fluorescent lighting, and miserable people.

I was playing on my iPhone 6S that I bought when I had more money. I was wearing a shirt and jeans from Lane Bryant, clothes that are never inexpensive even when they’re on sale. I wore my $300 ankle-high boots from the renaissance faire because they make me feel like a rock star, plus they looked better for wearing to work than my sneakers would have been.

For a little while, a guy was sitting in front of me who was wearing a Taco Bell uniform t-shirt. In another section of chairs, I saw a guy get up when called, and he looked like your traditional bearded Harley-Davidson-riding kind of dude. I saw a woman wearing pants that were open on the side but held together by a ribbon of fabric that zigzagged down the length of her leg, and all I could think was that those pants would be better off in a night club than any kind of bureaucratic office. I wondered what reasons the other people had for being there, but I was certain that their needs were greater than mine.

I knew I would have to speak to a case worker or someone, and while it’s been scheduled for next week, the fact remains that it’s a part of the process. So what do I say? Three years ago, I had about $100,000 to my name. After paying off a couple of loans, I had a little less than that. I basically went through about $40,000 a year, for two years, and barely worked during that time. I haven’t yet landed a job that will pay that much. So, at what point do I say that I’m apparently bad with money and shouldn’t be given hand-outs?

But that’s just the thing. Now, I need the hand-outs to get back on track.

I needed the $100,000, which was an inheritance. No, I didn’t need it in the sense that I had $100,000 worth of debt or any other such needs. I needed it as a test of myself and others. If given that much money, would I choose fun over responsibility? Having that much, would I have friends because I’m a nice person who buys things they ask for, or would I have friends because I’m a nice person who they respect and care about?

After losing the money, I lost the fiancé. While it became obvious that we were two different people, the fact remains that he ended our relationship after our eviction from the apartment was definite. However, I had just started a job that hadn’t started paying; if he had any faith or patience, he could have stayed “for richer or poorer.” I think about those words, “for richer or poorer,” in regards to the end of our relationship, and it reminds me that he left before he had to make that vow in front of God and our families. If he had stayed, I could have received homelessness prevention services easier since his name was on the lease for the apartment as well. It’s quite possible that I could have turned myself around months ago.

Of course, I wouldn’t have burned through so much money if the ex fiancé wasn’t so willing to spend it on me. He kept talking to his friends, and he was the one saying that I could buy a condo, or that I’d be fine living in a luxury apartment where the rent was $2200 a month. Well, it was a roof over my head that allowed me to have a cat, but I had never priced apartments before and I just assumed that the higher price was because it was New Jersey and so close to NYC.

I probably should have ended our relationship sooner, but I didn’t see any problems at that time. It was only 6 months into our relationship at that time as well, so I wasn’t thinking logically and nothing was sending up red flags. If anything, it was nice to not be alone after losing my Mom, and I think that mattered more to me than making sure I wasn’t getting screwed out of money.

But living with a friend I’ve known for over 10 years, I thought things were going to be different. I’ve done things for her, like teaching her how to drive, and I’ve bought things she needed when she asked for them. Looking back, I bought things that some of her other friends would have paid for just the same, and she didn’t really need them to survive but I did want her to be happy just the same. Within the past month, I’ve been “reminded” that she didn’t have to let me stay here, something that was told to me by some of her friends who she has no problem complaining to when I’ve done something she hasn’t liked, but she never seems to defend me or express gratitude towards me while I’m here. And I feel like everything I did for her was just to make her happy, so now I regret doing it at all. I feel used, as if I did nothing for her throughout the years, and I just feel like I’ve been taken in so there’s one more person to serve her and take her verbal abuse.

If I think about it all, I do need the government assistance right now. I need to get out of this house and live alone again. I need to pick up overtime shifts, not so I can keep an apartment and have food, but to pay off the debts I’ve racked up. And if I don’t live here, I can work overtime and not worry about missing dinner, or even feeling like I’m taking food out of other people’s mouths. So while it hurts a tiny bit to read the words “Notice To Vacate” on the letter that my friend gave me, it also is the kick I need to leave here and live a bit more comfortably.

Comfort is relative. I’ll be sleeping on the floor, getting government assistance. It’s not the life I want. It’s not a life I deserve, though I can’t decide if I deserve to have things be worse or if I deserve a bit more luxury. There are other people who are more deserving, harder-working, who had a rougher life growing up, who have to struggle more because of prejudices against their race or sexuality, people who have more mouths to feed and can’t make a more substantial income. I have been blessed and rather fortunate in life, which makes me wonder if it’s caused me to delude myself into believing I’m more capable of bouncing back without assistance than I really am capable of doing.

Perhaps appearances really are deceiving. Anyone in that room could have had less of a need than I do for housing assistance or food stamps, or any of the programs I didn’t sign up for. They might have other family members pushing money towards them to help out, just to make things easier for them. Me? I know people who can’t help me out because they have so much going on in their own lives, and those I haven’t asked would probably give me the same answer. But that’s just how things appear, which might not be how they really are.

I’ve learned a lot from this whole experience. I learned what it’s like to have to go on government assistance. I’ve learned that people can do things for you and not have any compassion, and those who are compassionate aren’t always able to do what you need. I’ve learned that holding money makes you nothing more than a wallet to someone else, and you serve no purpose if you’re empty. I learned who to trust.

And I learned I’m not as humble as I feel, that I have too much pride that I need to swallow. No matter what, government assistance is a need for me at this point. I have to get over myself and just accept that fact, and my life will begin to get easier.

Well, a lot of things will make my life easier, At least now I know what I can handle, and it’s not a windfall.


Gotta Survive Somehow

When I lived in New Jersey, I didn’t know many people, and those who I knew lived at least a half hour away from me. Going to the grocery store was absolutely free of interaction with people I knew, there was no chance of meeting someone who would ask what I’ve been doing since they’ve seen me last.

Since returning to the area where I was raised, I’ve had moments when I’ve wanted to see people again. I want to talk about what I went through, how awesome my life seemed to be, how awful my relationship was. I want to connect with people and see how things have changed while I was away. Rekindling these friendships, even if we were little more than acquaintances, kind of makes me feel like this is where I need to be for now.

It still doesn’t feel like home, however. I know the roads, I know what used to be where, but I lost so much in 2014 that I can’t go back to feeling how everything used to feel. But I digress.

There are times when I enjoy being away from people I know, and today was one of those days. I went to Han’s Oriental Market again, this time starting with the bakery nearby, Tous Les Jours. I’ll save that trip for another entry. Afterwards, I went to the Wegmans that was nearby so I could get some regular food, knowing that no one would know me there or that they would assume I was someone else. I was wrong, as one of the Service Team Leaders greeted me on my way out of the store. She was one of my higher-ups when I was a cashier at a different Wegmans.

When I returned to the house where I’m currently staying, I told my friend about how I hoped to not run into anyone but did anyway.

“Are you embarrassed to be on food stamps?” she asked. “Do you not want anyone to see you using them?”

“Well, no, that’s not the case,” I told her. “I didn’t use food stamps at Han’s because I didn’t want to complicate things, but I could have.” I didn’t tell her that I went to Wegmans because that particular one has a wider selection of everything, including Asian snacks. I found a few things at Wegmans that I had set down at Han’s, so I picked them up in that trip. More than anything, I enjoyed being someplace I’ve been to before but being a random stranger to everyone. I don’t know why it’s fun to be around people and still be left alone, unless I’ve become an introvert over the course of time.

As for being embarrassed by having food stamps, maybe there’s some truth in that.

I was raised in a middle-class household, maybe lower middle-class, but we weren’t wealthy by any means and we weren’t “just barely getting by” unless it was a temporary thing because of bad decisions and bad luck intersecting at the wrong time. We were never on government assistance for anything, and we never depended on constant assistance from outside people to make ends meet.

I didn’t want to go on food stamps. I wanted to look at my current situation as being a temporary setback, that I’d bounce back from everything and be fine. And then I was urged to go on food stamps by my friend, so I signed up. Filling out the forms was like doing my taxes, as I had to list income and expenses and then provide documentation on whatever I mentioned. In the back of my mind, there was always that thought of, “what if they discover something that I didn’t include? What if they don’t think I’m worthy because I’m able-bodied or something?” Okay, I don’t wonder about being able-bodied when I’m doing my taxes, but the experience is still the same.

Now I have this card that allows me to get edible things! And I know what you’re thinking. You probably think I’m going to spend it all on Asian food. I’m not, unless I’m spending it all on instant ramen for the house. I do want to continue to try new foods, but I’m also going to buy food that I’m familiar with and that I can share with my housemates. Not everyone is as daring as I am.

There’s this unfortunate stigma that those on food stamps are getting all of these luxury items, and that’s in the back of my mind now. Luckily, I just replaced the battery in my iPhone 6S which I’ve had since day one, because there was a recall on batteries in the earlier models, so I might be able to get another year of usage out of the phone. But, I bought my phone when I had the money to do so, because I never dreamed I’d be in the situation I’m in now. I bought steel-toed Skechers sneakers because I needed slip-resistant shoes for a job I had in New Jersey, and because Skechers hold up so well for me, I still have a decent pair of sneakers for casual use. I have things to get me started with work once again, which is more important. I’m not one for designer clothes or handbags. I probably look nothing like the food stamp recipients that people complain about.

So will I buy lobster on food stamps? Maybe one lobster, if they happen to be on sale when things turn around for me. I’ve paid $15 for a whole live lobster and cooked it at home, back when Mom was alive and life seemed pretty good. I didn’t do it often, it’s something I’ve only done twice in my life. I’m more likely to go to the nearest Chinese take-out place and get some lobster lo mein, which costs about $5 for a pint and you can’t buy it with food stamps. I’m uncertain if that’s actually lobster in the lobster lo mein, but it’s usually pretty tasty.

Let’s face it, I have to survive somehow. I hate being on food stamps, but at least there’s ways to get off food stamps like making a decent income. And I’m not a fan of social interaction, but it keeps me connected to the world so it’s a necessary evil. As long as my grocery shopping excursions have all the fun of my time spent in New Jersey without needing to be in New Jersey, then my life really isn’t so bad.