Monday, September 6, 2010

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting...

Waiting is the biggest stressor* for me.

It hasn't helped that what I'm waiting for has meant my being unable to buy desperately needed things.

My remaining pants and jeans are falling off me, literally. As I walk to and from the grocery store, I'm having to keep hitching them up. When I go out, I look poor and that embarrasses me.

Recently, my fallen-apart comforter and last top sheet, plus the t-shirts I'd been wearing for nightwear had become so threadbare they were good for nothing but the dumpster. What bedding remains is a single fitted sheet to cover the mattress. I've been spending my nights trying to sleep with a single, light throw over me. It's no bigger than a bath towel.

The nights are getting colder; the heat hasn't been turned on yet. I'm so cold.

Then there's the reading glasses and the LCD/LED monitor that's needed to replace this ancient CRT one. The brightness levels of my monitor have so decayed that a person with good eyesight said everything looks blurry. Using this monitor has worsened my eyesight.

Why don't I get the things I need? What's the wait about?

I'm waiting for approval of my application to the BC government's Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER), a rental subsidy program for low-income seniors.

The SAFER office received my application on July 19th.

In anticipation over the last two years of applying for SAFER when I turned 60, I'd calculated and apportioned my savings to last until I would begin receiving the subsidy. This meant living on no more than $700 per month.

In my calculations, I assumed the processing of SAFER applications would take up to six weeks. Nothing on the BC Housing website suggested otherwise.

Six weeks didn't seem like such a bad assumption. There was, after all, the customary advisement of "up to six weeks" that I'd been told or read whenever I'd dealt with federal or provincial government services in the past.

Silly me. I was going by experiences back in the days of yore. Back in the halcyon days prior to the BC election in 2001, before the large budget and public service cuts done by the Campbell government.

The middle of August came and went and I'd still had no word from SAFER, not even acknowledgement of receipt of my application. So I called their office using Skype and was told to expect to receive my first payment at the end of September. By that time SAFER would owe me three months' worth of payments, which would total approximately $1,000.

Panic set in, but I eventually coped. I began visiting the food bank more frequently and cutting even further on my 'discretionary' spending - to about $80 per month. By 'discretionary', I mean everything else other than rent, hydro and cable (internet only).

With three weeks having passed since I'd checked with SAFER, I called again on September 3rd. Now I was told that they were about "four weeks behind in processing" and were still working on the applications from the middle of June. Ergo, I should not expect to receive payment until "at least [the last working day of] October." I asked if 'at least' really meant 'not until the end of November'. The man restated "the end of October," without the qualifier.

So now I'm scared and I don't trust that I'll see a SAFER payment the end of October either.

All my best-laid plans - to make my savings last not just until the SAFER payments would begin, but to stretch them until I turned 65 and qualified for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement - look to have been for nought. With the punishingly low interest rates, (especially punishing for people dependent on their savings), my savings over the past while have been earning very little. In June, I did what I could and put most of my money into two non-redeemable term deposits. The rest, $2,700, went into a redeemable (after 90 days) term deposit; starting the 15th of this month, it's to be divvied out in 10 monthly payments of $270.

You do the math:

* CPP payment: $295.55
* Savings: $270.00
* Total monthly: $565.55

Rent just went up: $501. Shaw internet service just went up: $52.64.

Forget about hydro, food, monitors, reading glasses, warm bedding, sleep wear, pants that fit.

No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try to make things work, it never seems to be enough.

When you live so close to the edge, there's no room to accommodate government 'service delays'.

Thank you, Gordon Campbell, for approving all those cutbacks to BC's public service.

*On Saturday I bought more St. John's Wort. It's an expense I can ill afford; but I also cannot afford the toll this stress is taking on my body and my mind. I've been too ready to erupt lately. Kiltie and Brodie are affected by the tension. Time to do something about it.