We went back down to the Franklin County Veterans Services Commission today, and successfully filled out Jim's paperwork to submit a VA claim. This is phenomenal and one of the three big things we want to accomplish: reliable car with air conditioning, housing, and VA compensation. Everyone we met was incredibly kind and helpful, and they did their very best to make everything as easy as possible.
But overall, this process is not easy.
I cannot imagine how someone who is homeless and who doesn't have friends to help gets themselves out of this situation. And I'm only bearing witness to how hard it is for veterans, who have more support than civilians do.
We talk about panhandling a lot here in Dublin/Columbus. The City of Dublin posts the following information on their website, "Do not be fooled; food, shelter, and assistance are available to those in need." Yeahhhhhh...but. I'm walking this journey along side Jim. He has no chemical dependencies, he's very organized, his mind is sharp, he is healthy, he's a veteran, and he has a huge support network. And it is STILL hard. There are different places one has to go to obtain services--it's not just a one stop place. There is documentation that has to be provided, and even if you think you have everything you need, you probably don't have a printout of your current banking balance (within the last 48 hours) and the receipts of how you've spent your money for the last thirty days. This is not unreasonable for the agency to ask to see--they want to make sure you're not spending your money on drugs or at the casino. Totally get where they're coming from, and I'm not condemning them. But think of how hard that could be to provide.
I know a lot of you want to see him in at least temporary housing until his permanent apartment opens up. The "temporary housing" you hear of is a shelter. Which he's been to, and he's not comfortable in. There is one shelter that people can go to that has locked rooms so you can be safe from anyone harming you, but that shelter doesn't have parking. In the sense that he'd have to park his vehicle so far away from the shelter that he'd have to take a BUS to it. I side with Jim on this one: I'd rather stay in my car, too. At least if I'm in it, I know that all my worldly possessions are safe.
I looked into long term hotel rooms--mostly for myself because my stomach knots up every time I think of him sleeping in that car. They are very expensive (see the attached Google map for rates, which do not include tax). You see that Extended Stay America on the map? The one that is the cheapest at $75 a night? It's $2,260 a month!
I fully recognize this journey isn't about me. But part of what I will take away from this experience is that it isn't that easy to overcome severe poverty. It really isn't. I'm not saying it's impossible, and I'm not saying that it can't be done, but it's hard.
I hope this doesn't come off as negative. I'm just very sad for the people who are not Jim, who don't have you lovely people to offer money, guidance and help. We'll take care of Jim. It might take a little longer than we'd like, but he'll be OK. I simply feel sad that it's not this "easy" for everyone.