In 2010, my struggle with alcohol culminated in a DUI and cost me my Commercial Driver’s License, and also my profession of 18 years. I found himself without income or housing, making my path to recovery astronomically difficult. During my three years of homelessness, I relied on the food stamp program and occasionally free community meals provided by shelters. The criminalization of homelessness resulted in a constant struggle with tickets and court fees, all from searching for a safe place to sleep.
When I was able to start working again, I began to take day labor jobs, but the food stamp benefits that I had been relying on were cut drastically. My schedule made even community meals an impossibility. I was still homeless, I still wasn’t making enough to meet my basic needs, and I still needed help. Unfortunately, I now made “too much” to get the level of help I had received before.
It took a long time to find treatment and secure housing. I am now nine months sober and mostly out of the woods, though I still find myself in the gap between having support from services and establishing self sufficiency. In looking for work, I had to weigh the potential income with the loss of Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) housing and food stamp benefits, while also doing the work necessary to maintain my hard won sobriety. This illustrates why it is so important to fully fund important services like the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), utility assistance programs, food stamps, and housing programs – and to create stronger communication between programs. We need to bridge the gaps where so many people like myself find themselves stuck.