Its 7:13 when I finally get down to Cincinnati, Ohio and park along side the Job and Family Services building. I start digging through the console looking for quarters, dimes, and nickels so I can feed the expired meter on the curb next to my car, which will only take enough coins for 1 hours time, but thats a whole different story. Today its about my grand adventure that I will never, EVER forget for as long as I live.
I finally grab about 50 cents and head towards the meter to get that big one hour pass to keep my friend’s car there. As I’m putting my change in, a woman is screaming at the top of her lungs how she hates %&*#%$& white people and is directing her comments at me. Why? No reason really, except that I was white (I still am btw) and I was in her line of vision as she was screaming. After about a dozen f-bombs and racial remarks in a matter of maybe a minute or two, I made my way around the corner walking down to the front entrance which was only about a half block away pretending like I never even heard her.
Its about 15 degrees on this day so everyone is bundled up to where you can barely see faces, chili dog vendors are setting up with plastic covering all around their grills to my right (3 in all), and about 15-20 people to my left getting what they can out of their Newports, Kools, and Marlboro Lights which you could identify by the ridiculous amount of cigarette butts on the ground, and the menthol-type smell from most of them.
As I opened the door, with the Jobs and Family Services building opening at 7am I would be one of the first to talk with someone. Ha, I all I could do was chuckle after walking through the empty line up to the metal detectors, I made it through with no beep, beep, beeps, and then I glanced to my left with depression. Not only was the room full, but so was the line and what I thought was only going to be a couple hours gone with my friend’s car wasn’t looking so good anymore.
By the time I got up to talk with someone it was 7:23am when they clocked me in and I was officially #10. They had me a packet to fill out explaining things like how much I make, do I have money in checking/savings, and on and on so I pulled off to the left and sat down to fill it out. Within moments I was engulfed by the smell of stale beer mixed with cigarette smoke as a man tells me his story of this being his third month in a row to get various assistance for himself.
The whole time I am only partially listening as I can’t get over the fact that someone that is getting food stamps, cash, and medical assistance smells like he does number one, and number two that he would come in like that for the “interview process” or whatever they call it. In the back of my mind I am definitely thinking my chances are extremely good, even though I did come in unshaven and had some old comfortable clothes on.
By 8:40am or somewhere around there they called #10 and a nice gentlemen came out, then walked me back into this office area where the desks are turned like teller windows (or at least the same long line running horizontal) that were no more than 10 feet into the room. I sat down in front of his desk as he asked, “What are you here for today?” Then I said, “I’m just here for some food assistance. I was laid off the week before Christmas and haven’t gotten a paycheck of any kind since. However, I have been writing and I received $250 for this past week, but rent is due and if I make that next week I will need the total of $500 for my rent.” Granted I only needed $450 of it, but still, I explained that I would only need it for this month and that would be it.
He turned from the computer and said, “So you need to talk with someone today for expedited services?” After I answered yes if left momentarily and came back with another piece of paper which reads, “You have been placed on the stand-by list because you met the following stand-by criteria (s):”, then there is a box that has a check mark next to it that reads, “Expedited Food Stamps.” My assigned number that was given to me was 320 and he told me to go back out and wait for name or number to be called for an appointment.
By this time I’m realizing why so many people were just sitting out in the front area and knowing this was going to be a long day. Worst part was I wasn’t even guaranteed to see anyone, I was just on a waiting list and if someone canceled or didn’t show up for an appointment a stand by would fill in for them. Basically meaning I had 19 people in front of me.
Its about 9:00am or a little after at this point and I remember that great hour long meter outside, and rush out to go replenish it hoping at the same time I wouldn’t get passed over inside. So I run out unlock the car and go digging for more change, finding a couple nickels, and a few dimes with that “bottom of the coke can stickiness” on them and get myself another hour of ticket freedom (which I was afraid I would see this yellow slip on the car when I got out there).
Its about 10-ish or 10:30am now and they haven’t even called a fill in number, or maybe only 1 and at the most 3 when I look down on my stand-by slip that reads, “Stand-bys are never guaranteed appointments; the agency can not determine how long you must wait; or if you will be seen the same day.” Now I glanced at this before, but it didn’t really sink in until I started doing the math of 2 fill-ins an hour, so I went back up to the front desk and told her I would like to reschedule. Which made a lot of sense considering I had someone else’s vehicle, I said I would be gone for two hours, and here its almost 11am, two hours past the original two hours.
The lady says, “Oh you don’t have to do that, we got all the way up to 341 yesterday and if you are 320, there is a great chance you’ll be seen. I just don’t know when that will be.” So I just nodded, said thanks, and walked away. By about 11:40am they still hadn’t called 304 and it again dawned on me about the stupid meter outside. All I need is a ticket under my friend’s name, that would go over real well. I put in the last of the change which will only last another hour, and I didn’t have any cash on me.
12:30pm hits and I have to go, they are only on 308, I have been staring at everyone in the room, women with babies running around, elder people looking like statues, and my favorite was when people knew each other. At one point I bet there was 6 or 7 people that came in that were all friends, that there could have been a weekend barbecue somewhere around there when the day was over. It gave me a good chuckle, but at the same time I was thinking of these people’s lives and how I felt sorry for them even though on this day, I was one of them.
So fast forwarding a little because I’m already anxious to get to the juicy part of the story I just ended up leaving. I felt bad that I had the car that long, I tried calling earlier and no one answered, so I had to go and give the car back to my buddy. I got to the apartment and went to knock on the door, but no one answered so I thought maybe he was sleeping (very possible), so I went down to my apartment, wrote him a note explaining was I had been doing and pushed it under his door.
When I had left they were on 308 and when I returned around 1:00pm they were at 309. I was really beginning to believe I wasn’t going to be seen, but about 5 minutes after that thought they started calling our numbers left and right. By around 1:45pm they called my name and I was so relieved that I was all happy go lucky, until she gave me a paging device like you would see at a restaurant when you are waiting for your name to be called so they can seat you.
So I went to the other side of the building and eventually around 2:00pm someone called my name. She was a middle-aged lady maybe in her 40s, with glasses and for some reason just didn’t gel with me. I want to leave her name out because as irritated and pissed off she made me, I believe a lot of it had to do with her job and the people that she comes across everyday. I know many people like this and well its not her fault I guess.
Anyways I remember saying something nice to her as we walked about half a mile back to her cubicle (not really, but it was a long ways for sure), but she didn’t respond. She simply said her name was such and such, and I replied with a, “Nice to meet you” and all she could muster up was, “You can have a seat there.” Then slowly she started asking questions, and I realized they were the same questions on my form so a little perturbed I said, “Aren’t these the same things I have already answered for you?” She replied, “We don’t go off what you tell us.”
Okay, that pissed me off a little and I darted back with a irritated tone, “Well if you don’t go off what I say, why are you asking me again? That just means you are not going to believe me twice, so why ask?” Granted these are not my exact words, but they were pretty close and with the exact same point in mind. She comes back with some response that just made me chuckle and I said, “Okay”,because frankly I just wanted to get these things and leave. It seemed however this woman that was supposed to be helping me, was actually trying to catch me in a lie or something and I was a little confused as to how things were turning out.
The next question she asked in an “interrogating I don’t believe you manner” was, “I don’t understand if you haven’t made any money how do you pay for rent? It doesn’t make sense.” Seriously, this one pissed me off because I really was starting to feel interrogated and although I was a little loud, I was not overly screaming in anyway, trying to keep my cool, but I told her, “Listen, I lost my job the week before Christmas, my last check there paid for my January rent, I haven’t made anything since then until January 26th when I was paid $251 for this new writing job I took.”
She didn’t say much for awhile and she got up for something and being nosy I saw my paper that says, “Return all verifications no later than this date: 2/28/08.” Then when she comes back she explains that when I return all this information that she wants, and they approve the process I will receive my card for groceries in 7 to 10 days. Okay, now I’m really pissed off and I let her know as I raise my voice a little more with a quick question and response, “What do you mean 7 to 10 days? I came down here to get these based on your website in which I inputed the same criteria and it said I should come down here immediately or call someone because I qualify to receive them in 24 hours to 7 days.”
What got me more than anything was when I said, “Listen, I’m not mad at you and my anger is not directed towards you.” When she replied, “I don’t care if it is.” With this overall tone that she just didn’t care at all whether people got help or not. All she cared about was making her money, and going home. Then she said, “I will go get my supervisor for you if you like.” Of course I agreed to this, and when he came over I too listened to the conversation of, “Well you don’t qualify for expedited services because, bla, bla, blah.”
I pretty much yelled at him, “Listen! I went on the internet it read even though I am starting to make money that I should come or call down here immediately because I can get expedited services for food assistance. I need food while my son is with me.” Then of course I get the old “weekend dad thoughts” because he is quick to tell me that I can not claim my son for this because he doesn’t live with me full time. By now I am livid and I say, “You don’t get it. I am not trying to CLAIM my son on my information there.” Before I can finish he says, “Well you wrote him down here on your form.”
“Well of course I did. You all act like I’ve been here before. I wrote it down because the question asked WHO WILL BE EATING THESE MEALS (or something to that effect) in which my son will be here this weekend and will be eating the food.” I laugh thinking about it now ,but he said it again something about “You can’t get food for you son.” Because I do remember chuckling and telling them like they were 5 years old, “Uhm, you can give me money for the food and I can go and buy groceries, and guess what, he can eat from the groceries I purchase.”
So I explained what I saw on the internet, and he explained the criteria, until I eventually told him that I wanted documents of what exactly the criteria is and if I am eligible. Also at some point the lady had told me about needing my landlord to sign papers, utility bill copies, etc. that I needed and I said, “Well why don’t you just tell me everything I need for all the programs I am eligible for today.” She said, “You don’t qualify for anything else.”
That was another time when I said, “Your website told me after filling out the criteria that I qualify for 32 programs based on my earnings and living situation!” Then she remarked in a smart #$% tone, “Well I don’t know what kind of criteria you put in there, but you aren’t blind or deaf so aren’ eligible for medical, you don’t have children living with you so you aren’t eligible for cash, and you are making some sort of money so you don’t qualify for immediate food stamp assistance!”
This was actually how the whole thing about getting a supervisor started, but after she told me that I heard the lady sitting in the cubicle next to us chuckle out loud and well I’m not even going to go into that, except to say its amazing that employs can laugh about other people’s situations. Funny thing is I thought there was no way I was going to embarrass myself and write about something like this, but being treated like someone who didn’t need help right now was discriminating in my eyes.
The funny thing is that I learned as well was that the cards are distributed from Texas and the shortest amount of time to receive any is 48 hours, which is longer than the 24 that is stated on their website. Also that I was asked to wait outside as it took over a half hour to give me the documentation on the criteria was extremely uncalled for, although I pretended like that didn’t piss me off because I was done arguing.
Funny, I started reading the Expedited Services Handbook that the man gave me and #4 reads:
(4) AGs (Assistance Groups) whose combined monthly gross income and liquid resources are less than the AG’s monthly rent or mortgage, and utilities.
Which means yes, I could get them, but not for up to 30 days as the lady explained. However, with this occurring and I had only liquid resources of $100 or less meaning I would qualify for 24 hour assistance (if there is such a thing).
Which is basically telling you, “Hey, don’t try to make money so you can keep a roof over your head. Just come in with nothing and we’ll provide you with 24 hour assistance in 48 hours.” Which is disappointing because had I gone in a week earlier, I would have gotten it. So I am penalized for making some sort of money trying to get by. Even telling them that I won’t need this in a month from now, I only needed it for this week, didn’t matter. In the end I guess the loop-hole (I say loop-hole because I know some definitely need it) is: Lazy= Government, Job and Family Services Help
I used to be extremely open about my life with others, being that venter that just has to tell everyone before my head would explode, but over the past year I’ve learned not to do that and just keep to myself about it. However, in this case it made me realize that paying taxes for 16 years (where it went to things like this) didn’t mean anything when it came time for it being a necessity to me.
So I wrote this in hopes that while embarrassing myself, someone will pass it on to someone else, and someone else, and keep going until it becomes an issue that has to be heard. There is no reason anyone should have to go through that process and waste an entire day to be told in the front end you qualify for immediate assistance, and make you wait 7 or 8 hours to get told no on the back end (especially when I could of been making money writing). What a day, THANKS FOR THE ADVENTURE JOBS AND FAMILY SERVICES.
***When I was writing this please understand the timelines are off, and of course I thought of things after I had wrote about something else. So for the most part everything is in chronological order even though the timelines are off, but the conversation with the Supervisor and the employee were scattered a little as I kept remembering things. Although everything still happened as told.***