I’ve known a woman (I’ll call her B), who has worked a good part of her life as caregiver. She has no living family, she does not own a car. She usually lives where she works, often on the overnight shift to serve the needs of a patient.
One gig was caring for a women confined to a wheelchair in an advanced stage of a degenerative disease. B noticed the women on day shift spent more time on their phone and watching TVs than the spent caring for the patient. She reported her concerns about the quality of care; the company that had assigned her promptly fired her.
She got another job with a facility that houses people with mental illness. Soon enough, her employer became verbally abusive in virtually every interaction, withheld her paychecks on a whim, and did not provide the house with sufficient food. Her stress level skyrocketed, as did her blood pressure. She suffered what was probably minor strokes on two occasions. The most recent one, on Christmas Eve, put her in the intensive care for a couple of days. She was diagnosed with kidney disease Her vision began deteriorating and is now about 80% reduced. When she returned to work, her boss harangued her about missing days and accused her of lying about being in the hospital. He fired her, then allowed her to stay, then fired her again, with two weeks’ notice. He refuses to give her last paycheck until she leaves.
B has been on the phone every day looking for shelter space, of which the county has precious little. She applied for Med-Cal and now has coverage, but only with certain providers. Her doctor ordered a CT scan. But she can’t get that without lab work, and she can’t get that without an appointment. “And the scheduler just left for the day.” More calls to people who cannot or will not help in the way their job title suggests they might.
A homeless services group wanted her to come in for ‘training’ before she got on the list for a shelter space. She might be eligible for hotel vouchers from Social Services, but that’s not assured. Call Social Services and you hear the message “We are experiencing heavy call volume, please call back later” – ALL day. She will have to get there without a car, money, or much ability to see, and hope she finds what she needs.
She not a drug abuser or chronically homeless, but now she’s disabled. She will be homeless in two days.
She’s caught up in a trifecta of fuckups among systems we pay our taxes to support. How did so much inefficiency and dismissiveness take over?
Truth is, many of us are a paycheck or two from the street – a hell I would not wish on anyone. None of this uncertainty would be necessary if the State’s considerable wealth were fairly distributed by forward-thinking people. Yeah – how naive! But those of us who want to live in a more just and compassionate world must find ways to help untangle our social ‘safety net.’