Why I wish my homeless sister could live with me in Germany
I just finished exchanging messages with my fiance’s sister. The owner of her storage unit, the place where she keeps the unsold remains of her life, is putting it all up for auction. He couldn’t afford the payments. She is staying at the house of a person who finds it appropriate to steal Pokémon cards from her 8-year-old son. Prior to this, he stayed at the local homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was initially placed in a women’s shelter with her 4 children. She felt a bit safe there. Unfortunately, they told her it was time to “move in” to the downtown homeless shelter. She had been there before. He did not want to have to bring his children to this place. So she decided to move into an apartment that is owned by a friend’s husband. Unfortunately, one of the conditions for staying there is that you have to put up with a messy, nosy thief from a roommate. It is also not completely safe, but at least this way the risk of theft or bodily harm is reduced. She has been trying to get a job. Job interviews don’t go so well, because his teeth are infected and rotten. She feels ugly. You are supposed to show strength and confidence that you don’t have. So where do you leave your children? Your youngest son has not started school yet. She has no income to pay for childcare or babysitters. She was thinking about having her eldest daughter watch over her while she attends job interviews. It could work. She worries but keeps her hopes up. The job interviews you have attended did not work out. He has no work experience. You know … other than breaking his ass by keeping a roof over his head and keeping his family together. They all sleep in one room. Which is used as a party room when they are not at home. The other people who live there leave shot glasses on his mattress that he uses as a bed. She pays for the room on housework. Cinderella and her attic. Keep your money in your shoe, your underwear. Anywhere that prevents it from being stolen. She suffers from all kinds of pain. Probably caused by stress. She is aware of that. But you don’t have time to meditate. Relaxing SE. She is falling apart as she tries to keep her family together.
I know some of you are wondering how a mother of 4 could get into this situation. I guess I could tell you some sad story about how terribly difficult her life is and it wouldn’t even be a lie. But the truth is … he was wrong. She made bad decisions. She got where she is. With the help of a system that is simply not designed to sustain a person like her, but it was her fault nonetheless.
She became pregnant with her first child at a very young age. Yes I know. This is how it always starts. The first pregnancy ended with a cowardly father fleeing to some unknown place in Latin America. The second pregnancy arrived. This time, the father really tried to be there. I tried to be a family man. Unfortunately, the US immigration system would not allow it. On his son’s birthday, he was arrested and deported to Mexico. Let’s put pregnancy number 3 and 4 aside because we can all see the pattern. There you go You have your juice to cause a stench about why this woman deserves what is happening. Despite this, he decided to move on. Boy number four is now 6 years old and starts school after the summer. For years, they all lived together, in a housing complex, with no real income other than food stamps and section 8 housing. Unfortunately, although you are provided with a place to live, you must also pay your bills, have phone service, shop school supplies and buy toilet paper, shampoo and laundry detergent. Something that cannot be bought with food stamps. So the bills piled up and the housing authority had enough. So there she is. Mother of four, on the street and without parents.
Yeah, he totally screwed up. She made a lot of bad decisions. But does that mean you should live in poverty? Does that mean the roof over your head should come with intimidating conditions and sleep with one eye open? She doesn’t want a mansion. You don’t even want the expensive conditioner. She just wants a 2 bedroom apartment and a job.
Meanwhile, I am sitting here in Germany, with my flat screen and my Netflix account, eating popcorn, watching “Breaking Bad”. And I can’t help but wonder why the poem on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty says:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe freely “
Because the tired, poor, and huddled masses seem to make up the majority of America. I’m not going to make an unconvincing political speech. I think the hypocrisy is evident. I think my sister is a test of the gigantic middle finger that America seems to pull out every time someone mentions the words “poverty” or “homelessness.”
Either way, it’s your fault. She doesn’t want to deny that fact. But I too have made mistakes. I have made terrible decisions. I got pregnant myself, being incredibly poor in the US Luckily for me, I am a German citizen. I had a way out. I ended up in a place that supports families, mothers, people. I came back here and the first thing that happened was dental care. In fact, the first thing my boyfriend, an American citizen with a German daughter, did was have a tooth pulled out. Which was something he just couldn’t afford in America. In the United States, they filled him with Vicodin and told him to wait. Immediately after the flight, his teeth came out. The dentist told him that he could have died. Then it kept coming: “Health insurance with full coverage, medical and dental”, “Erstausstattung”, which is: money that is given to you without conditions to buy furniture. “Kindergeld”, € 184 a month, “Elterngeld”, € 150 a month for 2 years of paternity leave, “Arbeitslosengeld”, € 709 a month for our family to manage, plus the rent paid for 3 rooms, 75 square meters apartment, and utilities. Some of you might think, “Well then why would anyone really want to work?” And I agree. It’s a problem. Some people get lazy because they take care of them, no matter what. However, these people make up a small percentage of social assistance recipients. And I was not one of them. I am currently visiting a university, tuition free, studying English and German. I get something called BaföG, which is a kind of grant to support you during your college years. They are € 710 per month plus healthcare. More than anything, I receive understanding, support, and motivation to become the taxpayer to support people like me. This is incredibly motivating.
7 years ago I lived in the United States. Illegally Married to a US citizen, but still illegally because I was unable to meet the conditions that came with the residency application. Above all, I could not afford to apply. My husband did not earn enough money to be accepted as my sponsor. But he loved America. I did not want to leave. So I did odd jobs for neighbors and friends. It is never enough to have to file taxes. Poverty was a way of life. A lifestyle that I adjusted to. This is possible. However, I did NOT have children. The idea of raising your child without the means to do so is terrifying and I realized this shortly after embracing the lifestyle that I had grown accustomed to. After enduring years of psychological abuse and willingly staying married to Uncle Sam, my marriage fell apart and I became pregnant with another man only a few months later. We were incredibly poor and couldn’t even afford ultrasound procedures. Do you see how my choices are no less bad than yours?
She screwed up. She made terrible decisions. But she deserves to be supported. Not because everyone should have a free ride. But because everyone should have the opportunity to become a motivated and successful person. Just one chance. America tends to spit on people who need help. America tends to turn away those in need rather than support them. And even if that is not evident in the liberal facade that it covers itself in, everyone who lives under the reign of doubt for being less fortunate than others will tell you so.
Everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt, to get up and make something of themselves instead of scraping the bottom for scraps until there is nothing left but regret, shame, and doubts.