I've talked about this before. I don't talk about being homeless a lot. It's painful, living in hotels for two and a half years. It's a short story if I leave out a lot of the detail. Two and a half years ago, around Christmas, we were evicted from our apartment in Mission Viejo because my publisher sat on their asses getting my advance check to me for my book, Getting An IT Help Desk Job For Dummies (available on Amazon, cheap plug). I worked my ass off to finish that book. 330 pages in three months. They didn't care. Companies don't care, so we were screwed. We figured we'd be out for a month or two then find a new place.
The thing is, nobody would take us.
It's easy. Just have the biggest recession since The Great Depression, mix in one guy with no college degree and 20 years of professional writing and IT experience, a disabled daughter, and a wife who has to take care of said daughter 24/7, then throw in shitty credit and families that lack any kind of real empathy, and you have us. By 2008 I was making $75,000 a year with full benefits. After the recession hit, I could barely make $20 an hour on contract. I moved from job to job, working my ass off, mostly for idiots who refused to listen to simple reason, but those are different stories.
I will say, I had this one client for six months. He ran a small business in Tustin. He wanted to automate his business operations, and had heard I was the guy. We talked and he told me he wanted a system that did X, Y, and Z and all for free. I told him that X and Y could be done but that Z would need to be handled by a different tool and there would need to be integration and that he'd have to spend some money. He hired me, but he didn't listen. I spent six months trying to convince him that there was no way in hell there was any system out there that would do exactly what he wanted, out of the box, for nothing. Nice guy, but dumb as a box of bricks.
Eventually, the jobs ran out. Nobody was hiring any more and the economy was changing. I was too old, had too much experience, and didn't have a degree. I worked for SendGrid for almost a year earning $65,000 with meager benefits, but was fired after I pointed out some marketing material lied about some stuff the company was capable of doing for clients. Learn that as a lesson, kids. Honesty doesn't win you anything in this world. I got a gig with Mirantis for a bit, but their own internal squabbling resulted in my position being eradicated before I could even get started, so there's that.
That's when the book gig landed on my feet, which ultimately resulted in us losing our apartment. We fought tooth and nail to get back on our feet. We begged and begged and begged. We fought with our respective fathers, Rima and I. I've personally spent what seems like months worth trying to convince my father that the help he was giving us wasn't helping. We made several abortive attempts to buy an RV to live in, one of which resulted in us getting robbed outright to the tune of $3,500, by a former OC Sheriff, no less. All the while, Rima is keeping Leah in school and getting a college education, and I eventually start working for Uber. All that time, we still have to pay the hotel, usually money we didn't have.
So, two years later, we're still in hotels and we get a letter from the Anaheim Housing Authority. They've pulled Leah from the California State Section 8 waiting list at the request of Regional Center of Orange County, the State services group that helps with her disabilities. So, we did as they asked and we started to feel as if things were finally going to change.
We filled out the application while at a hotel in Santa Ana. The forms said we didn't have to live in Anaheim, but apparently that's not how they feel internally, so we were declined. We moved to a hotel in Anaheim and applied again. They looked over everything and we were declined again, this time for insufficient information. Of course, we had sent the information, it's just that someone else looked at the file and didn't know what was going on, so they sent out the denial. Maybe I could get a job there making their shit work.
Finally, we get them to understand they have what they asked for and they finally approve our application! Good lord, the heavens opened up that day, but only about a fraction of a second. So, we go in, have a meeting, get our fingerprints taken, a background check run, and handed a voucher to go talk to a landlord at one apartment building. That's where we find out about Kathy. Kathy Nutter. Kathy Nutter, the head of the Orange County Community Housing Corporation, a non-profit group that has been operating in Anaheim for 40 years.
She was so nice. She talked to us, we told her our story, and she empathized! So few people were doing that, it felt new. She agreed to let us rent from her and we started doing the paperwork. She arranged to have some couches a board member was giving away moved in and it turned out her daughter had a fridge she didn't need anymore, so we got that too. We finalized things, got the keys, and started moving our stuff.
That turned out to be a mistake.
When we had first seen the apartment, we didn't see any cockroaches or smell anything, but by the time we started moving in, we found the roaches everywhere and a smell of urine in the kitchen that was just overbearing. We stayed in the hotel one more night. The next night, out of money from the move, we stayed at the apartment. We cobbled together sleeping arrangements and eventually fell asleep, only to be awoken by the screams of our daughter who had roaches crawling on her face and body. We haven't stayed there another night since.
We told Kathy what happened and she appeared to be shocked. She said she'd have the maintenance people over there in no time to take care of things. They sprayed something and went away. A few days later, when we checked, we found plenty of roaches so we told Kathy again. She sent her people over again and they put down gel and gave us bugbombs. We bagged up some of our things that weren't in boxes and set off about eight bombs. Two days later, we find plenty of roaches dead, but more than enough to sustain horror alive and well, crawling all over the place.
Kathy said she'd never had a complaint of roaches or bad smells before. Funny thing is, I spoke to a neighbor and she said they had roaches and had complained many times, and that a sewer line had broken last year and stunk up the entire building for several weeks. Wow.
We've taken pictures and videos. We've documented all of our communications with Kathy. We gave her every chance in the world to make it right, and she didn't take a single one. It turns out that the loving, friendly, helpful, generous Kathy Nutter we thought we knew was just another sleazy slumlord like all the rest. The rent for that place was $1400. We were going to pay less than $400 a month for our share, the Anaheim Housing Authority would cover the $1,100 remaining, and it was a pig sty at best.
Now, I haven't even mentioned the homeless guy living, literally, on our front doorstep or the half dozen or so drug dealers who were running shop in the alleyway behind the building. Everything about this deal just felt shady, and we were being screwed over royally. We thought we were safe, having made it into the helpful arms of a HUD approved group. Things just keep getting better, though.
We asked Kathy to reimburse us for the cost of the hotel. That was denied. We asked for compensation for the money we spent moving in. That was denied. We contacted AHA and asked them to come look at the place again. They did that, saw how bad things were, and said they would cancel their contract with OCCHC. They then suggested we move into another apartment, which looked good from what we could tell, but turned out to be managed by Kathy Nutter, as well. Isn't that a kick in the pants!?
So, we are now asking the AHA to help us get on another waiting list or help us fix this problem some other way, and so far we haven't heard back yet. It seems they might have hung us out to dry, as well. Only time will tell.
To get our money back, we need to take the OCCHC to court. Small claims. Yay. So that's what we're doing now. And back in a hotel. Me, three weeks into a horrible backpain episode. Leah still going to school. Bills have to be paid. Paychecks only come in when they do, and it's all hell.
So, this is that Fuck You I was talking about. It's the Fuck You that the Universe is giving us. The Jumbo Middle Finger of Fate.
I tell you, it's the most awesome thing ever.