I got a job interview yesterday and was offered a position. It’s the first interview I’ve had in about a year. I can blanket my field with resumes and not receive a single call. My job consists of counseling others to help them locate tools to remain sober outside of locked facilities, but cuts to county services have left many of us unable to find suitable employment. I’ve had to give up my line of work and try to find something, anything, to raise money on which to live.
Of course, the story is not so simple. I had two traffic tickets I have been unable to pay, and they add up to nearly $2,000 because I failed to appear. I suffer from depression and find it impossible to leave the house when I’ve been off my medication for any length of time, and no job means no insurance. My diagnosis is bipolar II, the type without any psychotic symptoms.
My spouse lost her job a year after I did. She works with disturbed children and adolescents in a group home environment. Her job was cut because the home in which she worked closed down for lack of clientele. Apparently there is no money to house disturbed kids either.
The interview I attended yesterday was for a customer service representative at a dollar store. The company is opening several new stores in my city and the immediate area. I was offered a job that pays just over minimum wage, and I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, it won’t be that easy. In order for the job to come through, I must submit to a urinalysis test, which I will pass, as well as a background check and credit check, both of which are likely to remove me from the candidate list.
I will never understand how my credit rating has anything to do with my integrity in the workplace or my ability to do a job. On top of that, I had to sell my car to pay our rent, so I get around on the city bus. In our city, the buses do not run 24 hours a day. My ability to make it to a job site is questionable. So, essentially, I’m out of the running for many jobs because I have not had a job for some time. I’m also nearing the age of 50, and that, I'm told, makes me vulnerable to ageist hiring practices.
We are living on a very small unemployment income that is at risk of being terminated because Congress is playing political games with whether to further extend benefits. My parents—who blame me for our financial situation and refuse to communicate with us in any way—are paying the rent. We receive food assistance but will have to aim for something called general relief when the unemployment benefits are gone just to keep the power on.
I applied for Social Security Disability because of my mental issues, but I have not been employed enough in the last ten years to qualify. I tried also for Supplemental Social Security, also known as SSI, but I’m not sufficiently disabled—according to them—to keep me from working. I called a lawyer to ask if he could help me obtain benefits, and he told me I needed to get a letter from a doctor attesting to the fact that I will be unable to work for the next year.
I’m seeing a psychiatrist at the county mental health facility now, but he has not seen me for long enough to make that kind of determination. The doctor said the goal was to get me feeling better so I can rejoin life. What he doesn’t understand is that homelessness is not conducive to finding employment or retaining any kind of emotional stability. I will take it up with him again next time I see him, but by then I will have to start the whole SSI application process over again, a job that takes at least five months just to get the first denial letter. What will happen between now and then might be catastrophic.
Tomorrow afternoon I will submit to the drug test and then cross my fingers that my credit and background history will not be too great an obstacle to getting a job that will have me running a cash register for eight hours per day. And I will be extraordinarily grateful if I should be given the opportunity.