America at the Crossroads

“I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”Thomas Edison (1847-1931), American inventor and businessman who has been described as America’s greatest inventor.I celebrated an anniversary yesterday, but it’s not exactly an anniversary one might celebrate if one has this particular anniversary as a part of their life. Six years ago as of yesterday (back on September 25, 2014), I left the last actual physical home address that I lived at in search of affordable senior housing. After six years of looking for it and I still haven’t found it yet, you’d think there was a major senior housing shortage or crisis in America. And regular senior apartment complexes (not income based) have rents that are through the roof. The last senior apartment complex I checked at that just opened up a few months ago starts at $1,173/mo. for a one bedroom 718 sq. ft. apartment–and that’s just for the rent. Add on a valet garbage fee (I never heard of that before a few months ago), electric, water, internet/cable, and gas if the stove/oven runs on gas, and you might as well buy a house at those prices if you can afford it. Many senior apartments cost more then that for far less square footage, too (like in the 500 sq. ft. range). You’d think all seniors in today’s America are sitting on retirement nest eggs accumulated over the years (I supposed many are, but many aren’t that fortunate, either).

So where have I been living these past six years while I’ve been looking for affordable senior housing? I’ve been living in extended stay hotel rooms as my only housing option, and I’ve been at my current address/hotel room for over four years now–not that I intended to live in hotel rooms for this long, but, well, life happens, right? And they aren’t cheap, either. I paid $285/week back in Florida, and I currently pay $231/week where I’ve been living for over four years here in Texas. I much prefer where I am staying right now as I have a kitchenette area with a full size refrigerator, two-burner stove top, a microwave, and kitchen sink and counter space, and cabinets. And I have a queen sized bed to sleep on, and 42″ HDTV with Dish Network on the wall above a small chest of drawers, a kitchen table and two chairs, and a bathroom with a shower (approx. 220 sq. ft. total). I have a little corner of closet space, too. And I even have enough room to put out a little Christmas tree each Christmas that I’ve been here.

Back at that hotel room in Florida, I didn’t have any type of kitchenette where I paid $285/week, but I did have a table and two chairs. I also had an microwave (the only thing to cook with) and a dorm-size tiny refrigerator with no freezer space, a queen sized bed, and I did have a 42″ HDTV on the wall with Dish Network. At that hotel they didn’t allow you to use any other type of cookware, like a portable burner or a small George Foreman type grill. If you had to cook something, the microwave was your only option. Eating in my room got really old after a few months of staying there. I did finally get used to the taste of microwaved fish.

You’d be amazed at how many folks live in hotel rooms (probably most do it not by choice but by necessity). I never even knew people lived in hotels until it happened to me. In fact, here’s just one article on the topic you can read titled, 15 Survival Tips for Living in a Hotel Room.”

Hotel taxes are a real kicker to have to pay, too, and they differ from state to state. The hotel taxes in Florida can add up to $36-40 per week on a hotel room that costs $285/wk, and they don’t drop off until a guest has stayed concurrently every night at the same hotel for six months. That’s a significant amount of money every month depending on the rent price of the room. It can add up to as much as $160-200/mo. on top of the cost for rent on a hotel room.

Here in Texas, the hotel taxes drop off after 30 days (a huge difference from Florida), and all of the hotel taxes you paid for those first 30 days is given back to you if you stay beyond the first 30 days. And you never have to pay those hotel taxes again if you stay at the same hotel long term. When I came back to Texas over four years ago from Florida, it was mainly just to take a break from the dismal affordable senior housing search that went on for two years in Central Florida with nothing ever opening up for me; however, the hotel room and rent price is what has kept me staying here over the long haul as the hotel rent with a kitchenette costs less then in Florida, too, and when you’re on a budget that counts, big time. Besides, I really like the city I’m living in here in Texas, too. But I haven’t given up totally on returning to Florida. I just can’t afford to return there just to live in another hotel room there.

However, my housing search hasn’t been any better here in Texas then it was back in Florida. What’s up with the senior housing scene in America? And it is no joke when I say that those seniors in need of assisted living facilities or with serious health issues requiring an assisted living facility need to have a huge retirement nest egg built up over time to afford those places where the rent is several thousand dollars a month. I am shocked at the prices of rent for seniors whether in an assisted living facility or just a regular (not income based) senior apartment complex for independent living (those without serious health issues). And affordable low income senior housing is about as hard to find in America today as ice is to find in the middle of a desert.

Honestly, I’ve been totally shocked (and after all I’ve experienced over the past dozen years since I accepted and then lost that job here in Texas and I never found another one, it takes a lot to shock me) at the senior housing situation I have found now that I’ve gotten old enough to be looking for it. Fortunately, I’m in excellent health so I don’t need an assisted living facility that costs two arms and two legs and your first born child who is at this point probably middle aged. But I can’t afford any of the senior apartment complexes I’ve visited that aren’t income based (try $800/mo. plus other expenses for a  tiny 441 sq. ft. studio–still vacant after I looked at it a year ago–that upon entering it looks like it’s missing an entire room–and it is). And they don’t even supply a washer and a dryer for that price, plus you pay water, valet garbage, electricity, internet/cable, and well, gee, at least you get to live with other seniors who mostly live in the much larger, $1,300-$1,600/mo. rent apartments that at least have one bedroom.

After six years of looking for senior housing (I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s been a pretty sorry adventure so far), I applied back in March–right at the time the COVID-19 pandemic started–at yet another senior apartment complex that was built and opened in the summer of 2017. It’s very nice and income-based, and I supplied all the information they needed (it’s a pain all the paperwork that is required for income-based apartments). In April I was told that a one-bedroom apartment (705 sq. ft. with a washer and dryer and a really nice kitchen area) was available for me to rent, and 17 days before my scheduled move-in date I received an email from the assistant manager stating my new address at that complex plus she gave me the info I needed on the electric company and cable/internet company they use to set up those services in my name. Since I lost all of my furniture 11 years ago after losing my job here in Texas, I also needed to buy some furniture for this apartment (and I had mentioned that to the assistant manager). However, until my signature was on a lease, I decided I wasn’t doing anything yet. Good thing I didn’t do anything with the utilities or buying any furniture for it as one day before I was scheduled to move into that apartment, I received an email from the assistant manager stating that their compliance department had reviewed my financial information and determined that I did not qualify for that apartment at that rent price after all, and that I could not move into it.

Say WHAT? Seriously?

I’ve rented apartments all of my adult life until I lost that job in Houston 11 plus years ago that screwed me financially from that point on since I never found another job, and I was still ten years away from normal retirement age back then, too (I was 56). Not only did it screwed my finances and my retirement, it screwed a bunch of other stuff, too. However, when I was working it was no big deal to finding an apartment. Now I can’t find one even if my life depended on it, and I’ve been looking for six years.

If there is one thing regarding all that we as a nation have gone through just since 2020 started with the COVID-19 pandemic and leading into a summer of outrage, racism issues, riots, and violence that seems to know no end, America isn’t what it used to be. I got that wake-up call 11 years ago after I lost that job, and a lot of you are starting to get it now, too, during this year of 2020. I’ve had 11 years to get used to not being able to live like I had been used to living before I lost that job 11 years ago, and life as I knew it took a nosedive that I didn’t know how to get out from under. And in those same 11 years I’ve learned a lot about the very serious undercurrents going on in every corner of our nation whether in major cities or in small town America.

And I doubt whether it is Biden or Trump who wins in November that it will make even a tiny bit of difference for me and the many others stuck in hotel living or long term unemployment, or who are getting screwed at their jobs or with their retirement funds or trying to find decent and affordable housing, or you can add anything else to this list you want because that the kind of year 2020 has been, and I don’t think 2021 is going to be magically different no matter who takes the oath of office in January.

Now would be a good time to say, “Wake up and smell the coffee.” I never expected what happened to me 11 plus years ago to change my life so drastically, nor did I expect to find so many closed doors when I spent six years after losing that job 11 years ago trying to find another job, or these past six years looking for affordable senior housing that has never materialized, either. A Democrat was president when this first started in my life back in 2009 when I lost that job, and a Republican is president right now during these past almost four years of the six years I’ve been living in a hotel room, and from my perspective looking out a hotel room window, neither party has made any difference that I can tell.

Change doesn’t start with whoever wins the White House in November. Change starts with us and how we treat each other. Right now. Today. Or doesn’t that even matter anymore? And that’s…

The Million . . .

Dollar . . .

Question . . . .

YouTube Video: “Stranger in a Strange Land” (1971) by Leon Russell:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.