On April 21, 2009, my life changed in ways I never could have imagined. I found myself living in a city I had never lived in before in a state I had briefly lived in three and a half decades earlier; and due to my very short tenure in this city and state, I was without the benefit of a professional network in the area after losing a job I moved there for a scant seven months earlier (at the end of September 2008). I traveled 1000 miles for that job and paid my own moving expenses, too, but I thought it was worth it at the time I accepted the job.
Up to that point when I lost my job almost eight years ago, I had been working in my career field for over twenty years. The new job I lost was not only a promotion for me with a much higher paycheck ($15,000/yr more than I was earning at the job I left when I accepted this new position), it was in an environment that fit right in with my bachelor’s degree in art and design–a love I had left behind years earlier when I pursued my master’s degree in higher education/student personnel services. It was the perfect job with the perfect combination using both of my degrees and my skills and experience of the past twenty years. I had visions of auditing several art classes including web design and publishing which I could do for free after I had been working there for six months (a benefit for employees found at most colleges and universities where they are employed). I honestly can’t tell you when I’ve been so excited about a new job. I accepted the position with much anticipation and excitement–I saw it as a new venture in life in a new physical environment (city and state) to explore.
However, much to my surprise, it didn’t work out for whatever reason. It was in a “for-profit” environment and all of my previous years working in higher education were at “nonprofit” colleges and universities (see article titled, “Non-Profit vs. For-Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know,” published on the “Back to College Blog” at “Franklin University” at this link).
The biggest challenge from losing that job starting right off the bat was financial. I went from earning a salary of $52,000/yr–$1000/wk before taxes–to waiting almost a month for my $275/wk (before taxes) unemployment checks to start coming in. I had a small savings account and no other financial resources except the unemployment checks, and I still had five months left on my one-year lease where my apartment was located that I couldn’t break. The rent was $845/mo (the most rent by far that I had ever paid to rent an apartment and it wasn’t a fancy apartment, either), and that didn’t include electricity, cell phone, landline for internet access, water (that was also the first time I had to pay for water when renting an apartment, too), plus I still had a car payment of $200/mo that would finally be paid off in November 2009. That, of course, doesn’t include other expenses such as gas, food, clothing, etc., plus I held onto my health insurance through the Cobra insurance (at a cost to me of under $200/mo) offered through my employer for the 15 months I could keep it until it ran out in July 2010. If you do the math (my monthly income on unemployment checks was $1100/mo), you can see I was stretched to the limit for that last five months in that apartment. I used to play a game with myself when I went grocery shopping at Walmart that I could not buy anything that was over $2.00 per item, and I only used the air conditioner in my apartment for a brief time in the morning and again before going to bed at night to keep the cost down (my electric bill went from $100/mo to $40/mo by doing that). I kept a box fan with a very long extension cord with me wherever I went in my apartment, and this was during the hottest months in Houston in the summertime.
Also, I cut off the landline and internet connection to my apartment to save another $60/mo, but I kept the cell phone as I had to have it to keep looking for work. And my cell phone company at the time offered a $10/mo internet connection at internet hotspots located in Starbucks and Border Bookstores at the time where I took my laptop and spent hours online applying for jobs. I had no internet connection in my apartment. And I started my job search the very next morning after I was fired the previous afternoon. I even dressed up as if I was going to work to go to the Starbucks to start my job search using their wifi.
I had a couple of close calls on getting a job in Houston while I was still living in my apartment in Houston during those final five months in my apartment; and I was flown to a small state university in Georgia to interview for a job that eventually got axed in their budget and no one was hired for it. At the end of those last five months in that apartment I knew I could no longer stay in Houston without a job as I couldn’t afford it and my unemployment checks were set to run out at the end of six months (I did end up getting the extensions offered at that time beyond the original six months).
During my last month in that apartment a friend offered me her spare bedroom in her home (her two adult children were out on their own by then) back in Florida and I knew I had to make a decision what to do about all of my household stuff–furniture, bookcases and over 1000 books, and a whole lot of other stuff, too, that I could not afford to move back to Florida. I spent $5,000 of my own money to move them to Houston the year before and now that I was unemployed the money simply was not there to move the stuff back to Florida (and I had no place to move it to anyway). So, I gave my furniture and a whole lot of other stuff to a ministry in Houston that helps people who are overcoming drug and alcohol addiction to use in their ministry. I was able to find a moving company that would move a small amount of my stuff to Florida for $600 (14 small boxes plus a hope chest that belonged to my mother, and a handcrafted small bookcase and small wall unit made by my maternal grandfather who died when I was a toddler). I was able to store it in my friend’s “Florida room” for the short time I stayed at her home (three months).
Shortly after I arrived at my friend’s home in Florida, my friend’s niece lost her job and she ended up moving into my friend’s home two months after I arrived. I was still conducting a full time job search and found temporary work that lasted from right before Thanksgiving 2009 through to New Year’s Day 2010, and due to the tight squeeze in my friend’s house with her unemployed niece moving in, I started looking in the area for temporary housing until I found a permanent job and could move wherever I found the job. I immediately found (through the Yellow Pages) a real estate company offering a furnished efficiency apartment as a “seasonal rental” for $450/mo plus electric only a few miles from my friend’s home, and I moved in at the end of December 2009. There was even a place under the stairwell for all of my stuff that I stored in my friend’s Florida room.
The seasonal rental was completely furnished with circa 1970’s furnishings, and it was the upstairs of a grand old house in the downtown area of the town where my friend lived. Built in 1938, it was “one of a kind” in that neighborhood and I fell in love with that old house. When I originally moved in I told the woman manager (her office was on the first floor of the house) that I would most likely only be there a few months at the most until I found a permanent job and moved on (I was applying for jobs in my field all over the United States). Two years later we both had a good laugh when I was still living there and still looking for a job, and the house was sold at that time to an investment company in early 2012. The new company came in and changed the rent to $500/mo utilities included, and I continued to apply for jobs and traveled around as far as Atlanta, New Orleans, and even back to Houston looking for work. A year later the investment company put the house on the market, and by the end of December 2013 a new owner purchased the house.
At this point I should mention that during this time I was able to collect unemployment checks for a total of 99 weeks, ending the last week of May 2011. At that point when they ended, I had no income at all. I still had some savings but it was gone after a few months, and at that point I was old enough to tap into a part of my very small retirement account without a penalty in order to have money to live on when my savings was gone. I lived on that money for three years and two months with no other income until I turned 62 and was able to start collecting Social Security in July 2014 as my only source of income (it is a little over $1000/mo).
Back to my apartment in that grand old house–in January 2014 I was told by the new owner that the rent would be going up to $600/mo. with utilities included. It really tightened an already tight budget and I was frustrated after all this time of not being able to find work of any kind, and not just in my career field. The new owners had other plans for that old house (they lived in that town) and in March 2014 another friend of mine offered me her spare bedroom in a major city in Florida where I used to live and work, so I put my stuff in a storage unit in the town where I was living at that time, and I stayed in my friend’s spare bedroom for almost six months. During that time I discovered just how incredibly hard it is to find an apartment on only a Social Security income, and while I found several ads on Craigslist for furnished apartments, I got no responses to my inquiries.
At that point (the end of September 2014), I decided to go back to Houston (I loved the city despite the dismal job experience) and I stayed at weekly rate hotels, which are not cheap by any means compared to an apartment while continuing my search for affordable housing. The rents I paid while I was there were between $275/wk and $325/wk including hotel taxes, and I was running through what I had left of my retirement money plus my Social Security checks at a fast pace to pay for the hotels plus normal living expenses. I stayed in Houston looking for affordable low income housing for just over three months, and in all of my attempts at visiting apartment complexes and answering many ads on Craigslist, nothing opened up for me. So I ended up going back to the city where I was staying in Florida as I had lived there the longest in all of my years of living in Florida, but my friend had given her spare bedroom to another woman at that point, so I ended up going back and living in hotels there at between $285/wk up to $350/wk including taxes. And I was still running through my remaining retirement money at a fast clip along with the Social Security check, and I could see myself being flat broke before the end of 2015, and I couldn’t afford the rent on hotel rooms on only my Social Security income.
At that point I contact my elderly dad to see if I could come home and stay in his house while I continued to look for affordable housing (he lives in the Midwest). Long story short, he decided to start sending me money to help with the hotel rent so I would not go broke, and he has been doing that since April 2015.
Due to the dismal housing search all during this time in both that city and the town where my stuff is in storage since the end of March 2014 when I left my last apartment (and sans the time I spent in Houston looking for affordable housing in the fall of 2014), I have been forced to continue living in hotels I can’t afford on my own (and only able to live in with my dad’s financial help). This past summer I decided I was getting nowhere fast so I left Florida again to take a break from the dismal housing search and I returned to Houston, and that is where I am currently staying. At least the hotels as cheaper here and the hotel taxes drop off after 30 days which is a significant savings. In Florida the hotel taxes don’t drop off until after six months. I am currently paying $245/wk for my hotel room, and at least this room has a kitchenette (the hotels in Florida where I stayed did not have a kitchenette, they only had a microwave and a small dorm-like refrigerator with no freezer area).
That is a brief (well, maybe not so brief) rundown on my life situation since I lost that job in Houston in April 2009. I never dreamed that I would not find a job fairly quickly after I lost that job as I had worked in my field for over 20 years, and I always got excellent evaluations from my former bosses and employers. I spent an enormous amount of time looking for work for the first several years after I lost that job, and I stopped counting the applications I submitted when the number got to 500 in 2011. I have no idea how many jobs I have applied for at this point in time as I stopped counting. I do keep a record of every job I have applied for and they are all listed in a 41-page typed, single-spaced document. I stopped looking for work actively at the end of December 2014 as one is limited as to how much money one can earn if they collect Social Security at the age of 62 (which I started getting in July 2014). Nobody was calling me at that point anyway, and it had been two years prior to that time that I received my last phone call from a university who was interested in me.
However, I never expect the housing search to be so dismal when I left my last apartment at the end of March 2014, nor did I ever expect to spend almost two and a half years of my time living in hotels that are much more expensive than an apartment. However, every apartment complex I’ve been to I have been told that I don’t earn enough income on my Social Security to rent from them. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. My dad offered to keep sending me money to help with the rent on an apartment, but I have found no apartment complex yet who will consider his financial contribution as “official income” so they won’t use it in the calculations for how much I need to be making to rent an apartment from them, and my Social Security income is not enough. Even when I tell them what I pay to stay in hotels (far more than the rent they are asking), it doesn’t move them one inch in my direction.
Today I was emailing a friend and I mentioned that maybe I should write a blog post in search of housing and see if anyone who reads my blog post might be able to help me find affordable housing somewhere in the USA. I can’t keep living in hotels I can’t afford on my own and without my dad’s financial help, and until I lost that job in Houston almost eight years ago, I was always self-supporting for my entire adult life. However, I can’t be self-supporting on an Social Security income of a little over $1000/mo.
So, I am writing this post to see of anyone in my reading audience has any suggestions for me. I’d rather you not state them in the “comment” section at the bottom of this blog post as I don’t want to publish the responses on the blog post. Instead, I have an email address that I created for use with this blog site and you can send me an email with any information or advice you may have. I’m asking for legitimate answers and not “comic relief” or nonsense or joking type answers. So with that in mind, please feel free to email me at (you can copy and paste it into your email):
If you feel more comfortable leaving a comment in the comment section, it won’t get published automatically. I can read it and take the information off of it and delete the comment.
My Linkedin.com profile is available in the upper right hand corner of this page (click on the “in” icon), and you can also access my Linkedin.com profile at this link. It will provide you with my professional work history and background, and give you more information than you will find on my “A Little About Me“ page on this blog site.
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”
So, I’ll end this post with these words (and follow them here with a “Thank You” to anyone who can help in even the smallest of ways):
I’m asking. . .
I’m seeking. . .
And I’m knocking. . . .
YouTube Video: “Home” (from the movie “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” 2010) by David Byrne and Brian Eno: