Livin’ in the Projects
I know my apartments are nothing like inner city living. I have new carpets and a place to put a stackable washer/dryer. I have 1.5 bathrooms, and my daughter has her own room. I have a dishwasher. I have streetside parking, and a view of snowcapped peaks. I breathe fresh air and have miles of open space where my child can run free. We have a playground on site.
However, its still a housing project. You can’t live here unless you make 60% (or less) of the average income. I am probably one of the more fortunate residents. I bring in a single paycheck, and I still make 60% of the average Durango income. There are a few college students living on my row, but I think I’m in the minority when it comes to having a completed degree.
My next door neighbor (the 22-year old single mom) works as a rental car agent at the county airport. Since her boyfriend took off with the car last week, I have no clue how she is getting to work. Her daughter goes to daycare, and she has 60/40 custody with her ex. She’s also onWIC.
When I got pregnant during what they call now “The post-Katrina baby boom”, I was on medicaid. Both LB’s dad and I were working construction, gutting houses and helping to rebuild. I think my jobsite morning sickness was starting to freak out the good ole’ boys, because by the time I was 6 weeks along, they told me to stop coming to work. Stop working? I had college loans, a car payment, not to mention we were still technically responsible for the rent on our Durango apartment. I was getting calls from collection agencies, and my savings was slowly draining.
So, I tried to find work elsewhere: Target, Taco Bell, any place that would hire me. My measley income was not enough to cover our expenses, and we soon began to realize (as so many other Katrina victims would) that promises were being broken all over the place. Our contractor told us the local guys were refusing to pay him for the grueling work were were doing every day. LB’s dad and I waited for the money we earned, but it never came. Turns out he was taking everything for himself so he could pay for his divorce back in Colorado.
We finally made it home, our tail between our legs, broke, pregnant and miserable. I lived off WIC for the next year and a half. I could barely afford diapers. For the first 3 months of LB’s life, I stayed at home and tried to make a life out of poverty and pain, while Roofer man did his thing. I hardly saw any money, and my student loans were in serious default at that point. So I got a part time job on the weekend, and was able to chip away at my ever-growing debt.
Can I just say that when you are so blindly in love with someone, you will do anything. I look back at the things I gave up so wilingly, and I am ashamed now. My paychecks eventually went to paying for water, trash, fuel and electricity for our shabby, spider-infested cabin. I stopped paying my student loans again. The money just wasn’t coming from anywhere else. My Ex said he owed a lot of people cash, and that he basically was working just to pay them back.
I’m going to skip the ugly part where it reached the boiling point. I’ll have to blog about that another day. All I can say is that now, even though I live in a housing project, and my daughter is still on State Health Care, I don’t live in a situation where fear and co-dependency is served for dinner anymore. My car may get egged by punk kids every once and a while, but at least I have enough money to pay for a whole gallon of gas at a time.
Last night someones car alarm went off at 3 am. I lurched myself out of bed in a panic, thinking it was mine, stumbled down the stairs, and frantically searched for my keys in the dark. It wasn’t mine. Someone eventually came and turned off the alarm. I stood in my living room, half-asleep, half-high on adrenaline.
Across the row from me, I could a hear the little 4-year-old Mexican kid crying and banging on his front door. His parents are constantly threatening to lock him out if he “continues to act like a little sh**head.” I guess last night they finally were true to their word. Eventually they let him in.
Even with the windows open, LB continued to sleep like the dead.
Yeah, I live in the projects, but I wouldn’t trade it for my old life. Not in a second.