Nudging the Boundaries


Fresno, California, US
April 11
Writer, Registered Addiction Specialist, civil rights/civil liberties activist


Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 20, 2011 1:25PM

Out of work and out of time

Rate: 19 Flag

unemployment 1 

 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.

unemployment 2 

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.

unemployment 3 

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.

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unemployment, poverty

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Good luck, Leslie. I hope they give you a break here. Congrats on the EP.
The credit history check is a particularly disturbing trend. If you are asked to explain negative credit, keep it very simple. "It's been very difficult to maintain consistent payments with employment gaps. It's not reflective of who I am and I'm glad this will begin to turn it around."
I work at times with people in these situations. Don't mention others and how you got turned around. Just sound stoked to get going. In sales it's called a "presumptive close". Do not sound like there is any chance you won't be hired.
This is hard to read, and I know it is much harder to live with. I hope the job comes through.
Matt - Thanks for the luck and congrats. Someone here thinks I write well, and that keeps me smiling for today.

Seer - Thank you for the luck, and I have no choice but to keep trying.

Alsoknownas - Legislation is now being considered in many states to outlaw the use of credit checks in hiring practices. I hope they become law.

jlsathre - Meditation helps. Everything is okay in this moment. Thanks for the hope.
Hard to read. Hard to read. I will be thinking about this piece tonight as I close my eyes.
I will be thinking of you, Leslie. Please let us know how you go.
Best of luck. I've never understood the credit check issue, either. It just doesn't seem fair.
Welcome to the Club. I can't get a teller job because of my credit! Guess they're worried I'll steal the millions of pennies in the vault even though I've worked my entire life handling millions of dollars in transactions a day!! WOOO!!!

It gets past the point of depression for me, makes me want to grab a gun and go hunting for human targets!! ~teehee~ :D

Good luck!!!!
jlsathre said it...
Sending you light, love and positive thoughts. r
Yvonne -
It has been a long, slow descent, making it a little easier to adjust, just a little more yesterday, and a little more again today. We survive because we must, because we have few other options, none of them acceptable.

Natalie -
I will post when I know more. Thanks for your concern.

Deborah -
The credit check issue is truly absurd. How can we penalize people--in the middle of what many are now calling a depression--for not being able to pay the bills we once could easily pay?

Tink -
I'm afraid my thoughts don't lend themselves to homocidal fantasies, and the people who are to some extent responsible for the fix in which so many of us find ourselves are far, far out of reach.

Myriad -
What is unemployment like in Canada, and how are your unemployed coping with their situation? I'm curious to know whether austerity measures are affecting folks who are in a similar situation in other countries.

Christine -
Thank you, I can use that.
Leslie, that's okay, I have enough homicidal rage for us both!! ~:D
BA -
Yes, I need to go put myself on the court calendar and see if I can get at least one of the traffic fines dropped and get the failure-to-appear charges dismissed on medical grounds. Then I can make small payments and get this cleared up over time.
Your credit should only be used to tell what kind of debt slave you are. Sorry they are using it for hiring criteria. Hope you can slide by and land that job.
This has just started happening in the med field also, what my credit has to do with my ability to do my job is beyond me and it is angering. How I spend my money is no one's business at work. The last two per diem positions I applied for they did an indepth credit report??? I have not had as much as a struggle as you have so I was ok. but it does not seem fair, in this market, we have given up all our rights to privacy. Best regards to you.
So many of us are in this situation. Best of luck to you!!
Good luck. One good thing: sometimes it takes quite while for something like this to make it off the traffic court's books and onto the credit report. Let us know how it goes!
Good luck, Leslie, I hope you get the job! Refusing a person a job because of poor credit due to extended unemployment is nonsensical and cruel. Give a person a job, and they can improve their credit through having a regular paycheck. Catch 22 lives!

Best of luck to you Leslie. It's rough trying to get back in the workplace and I hope the credit check doesn't foul things up.
How demeaning. What you have to endure simply to find employment. The system is a cruel, heartless monster. I hope you get that job. Rated.
I have always wondered about the credit business myself and how does it apply to my ability or reliability to perform a job. It's a dark cold world for a lot of people. Congress imitates Nero every day now. Don't pin your hopes of Social Security though, I am in my third year of waiting to be approved and I have letters from three doctors and two specialists saying I am unable to work. Good luck and I hope you get the job.
Good luck with everything! Your story is really familiar--different details, but a lot of similar experiences. I hope you continue to write, let us know how you're faring. Depression can be horrible, but it isn't forever.
Miguela -
Debt information should only be used to determine creditworthiness. Right now, it should rightly show that I should not be extended any additional credit. I remember the days when I balked against drug tests, thinking them to be a violation of my privacy rights.

Rita -
In the end, it really is about privacy, isn't it?

Julie -
Thank you. If I go on general relief when unemployment for my spouse is exhausted, we still will manage. We don't have a choice.

Blue in TX -
The citations will mar the background check, and my other debt issues will show on my credit report.

Shiral -
It really is a Catch-22.

Abrawang -
Hopefully they're just looking to see if I'm above some arbitrary credit figure. I had almost fixed my credit problems from my last extended period of unemployment, so perhaps it's not so bad as I fear.

Erica K -
It IS demeaning. It's hard to come across as confident when I've got all this crapola swept under the carpet beneath my chair.

Bobbot -
I had hoped to get a lawyer to fight the good fight on my behalf. Have you tried that avenue?

Darkly Bright -
The funny thing is that I descend into depression so slowly that I hardly recognize it until I find I just can't leave the house under any circumstances. It's been part of my life for so long, I ought to be able to recognize the signs earlier. Or just make sure I stay on the meds regardless. Now that I know I do have options in that regard, remaining medicated should be easier.
The National Conference of Law Examiners is now using credit information to determine if the applicant has the proper credit history go qualified for the unwritten, or "Character" section of the bar examination process. Since most aspiring lawyers are either broke from law school or are trying to be admitted to another state on motion, the credit problem tends to haunt applicants trying to start again in a new profession.
rrbill -
It's insane, I know. More institutionalized division of the haves from the have-nots.
The real insanity on the whole economy is that more and more people will be in your situation. Thus, fewer and fewer people able to pass the credit check, meaning more jobs will have to be outsourced, causing more unemployment, leading to more credit problems...

And the end result is ...?

And understand I completely feel your struggles with it all, as I've been in the same boat (mid-50's, trying to qualify for disability, no jobs available, etc.) for 2+ years.

best of luck to you. will keep a good thought and say a prayer for you. i wish your story was not as familiar as it is. tried to tip but the couldn't get it to work. what happened to using Paypal?