I’m helping our friend “Joy”, a single mom who lives in a transitional housing facility, find a place to live with her newly acquired Section 8 housing voucher. She’s actually always lived a pretty plush lifestyle but recently ran into a string of bad luck and is now officially classified as “homeless”, despite her clearly defying stereotype. We’ve been trying to find a place here in the Westside since she’s decided to go back to school here but it’s been nearly impossible finding a manager that will allow Section 8 residents. And by “Westside”, I don’t mean Beverly Hills, but more of the working-class yet slowly gentrifying areas of Palms, Mar Vista, and Culver City. Where we live.
I am no stranger to searching for Westside apartments and have helped a number of friends find a place to live. However, I have called over 60 managers and have only been treated with complete coldness, arrogance, and bigotry by most of them. Several of them have even laughed at me when I asked them if they accepted Section 8. I’ve been hung-up on many times, several of whom did it while I was mid-sentence.
We had 1 promising lead, a woman who had rented one of her units to one of Joy’s friends who also used Section 8. We went to go check out the unit, which was actually the manager’s place, and it was spilling over with Christian paraphernalia; we actually share many of the same books. But this chick was the rudest of them all. She exuded pure condescension and she talked to us as if we were children. But since it was the only opportunity we had, my friend made an appointment with her to submit an application. Later that afternoon as I was making my rounds calling listings on Craigslist, I ended up calling her (unknowingly) for the same unit that was $50 less than what she quoted us. She, of course, was much more pleasant with me until I realized that it was the same lady. She hung up on me when I asked her why she was charging us more. And when my friend went to her appointment the following day (taking inconvenient public transportation with her baby), the chick stood her up! When Joy called, she said, “I told your friend yesterday that the appointment was cancelled because you didn’t have a job”. None of which is true. My friend thinks it’s due to racism since she is black and her friend who has a unit there is white. I quickly discarded the thought…there’s no way that could be true, could it? Omigosh…is it?
Even though I’m just helping someone, it’s hard not to internalize all this rejection. What is it like to be constantly subjected to these types of unremitting micro-aggressions when you’re just trying to get back on your two feet? And to receive the harshest treatment by a fellow believer was pretty appalling. We fail to understand how critical it is to live out Jesus’ teaching in even our seemingly mundane tasks.
“Why do the poor stay poor and how can they get out of it?”- this thought pretty much dominates my mind on a daily basis. There are myriad theories out there that try to explain it, but my hunch is that it is deeply connected to how people can internalize the powerlessness and helplessness that is communicated by present systemic and structural injustices, which is then misunderstood as “laziness” (though there are lazy people out there, rich and poor). It’s probably a lot easier for me than my friend to navigate the “system” because my own sense of resilience hasn’t been battered, even though my very brief brush with it has kind of profoundly discouraged me in a way I haven’t experienced.
This is my first blog post and I think I may write from a more praxis-oriented perspective. It’s important for me to carve out the space and time to articulate my otherwise jumbled up thoughts and experiences.