Jim Lantern Seeking Advice/Suggestions from Readers of Timeglass Journal – Housing Issue

Timeglass Journal

Jim Lantern

Seeking Advice/Suggestions from Readers

Housing Issue

1:45 p.m. CT Wednesday 1 April 2015

I’m age 59 now, born 5 March 1956. I’ve never been in this kind of situation before, in which I have no clue how to survive it. I’ve explored all options I could think of, and all have failed to get results. I’ve had about 4 months to work on this problem. Perhaps I’m overlooking something. Therefore, I’m seeking advice or suggestions from my readers here at Timeglass Journal.

Contact me via…

The apartments complex where I’ve lived since 3 May 2008 here in Norman Oklahoma has been sold. It is to be razed – bulldozed – in August 2015. The new owner will build a massive high-rise apartment building with a parking garage. I have until 31 May 2015 to find another place I can afford to live at on $851 per month of Social Security Disability benefits. I’ve been paying $585 for a one-bedroom (unfurnished) apartment. Rent includes all utilities, plus Cox basic cable TV and Broadband Internet. I’ve never been late paying rent. I’ve never violated the lease. I’ve been a good tenant here. The money I receive is from money I paid from 30 years of employment into Social Security for retirement but get sooner for disability.

The City of Norman City Council approved the sale and razing. There are documents to prove the property has been sold and is to be razed. The local news paper did an article about it. The property management company denies the sale and planned razing. The manager has refused to officially inform any tenants. For tenants on yearly leases, Oklahoma law does not require any notice be given. The lease simply ends on last day of the lease, and the tenant is expected to vacate by next day, unless the landlord offers a renewal for another year or an extension such as going to month-to-month. Over 200 tenants will be displaced – Oklahoma University students and employees, single adults, married couples, families with children, retired seniors, and people like me on disability.

When other landlords ask why I’m moving, I report the sale and planned razing. When they ask my landlord about it, they are told it is not true. They are told I’m lying. They are told my lease is not being renewed because I’m a bad tenant. The landlord has so severely slandered me that no one contacted will rent an apartment to me. This is a very powerful local landlord – the former owner and the new owner. No local attorney is brave enough to go up against this landlord, and odds of my winning are very slim anyway. Oklahoma law is slanted in favor of landlords.

Summer 2012, Norman Police began a campaign against crime in high-density housing, mainly low-rent apartment complexes for low-income tenants. Police associate low-income with crime and criminals. Uniformed police officers delivered Crime-Free Lease Addendum forms to managers of low-rent apartment complexes. They can’t raise the rent too much because the apartments are not worth much more than what tenants are already paying. So when the officers delivered the forms for tenants to sign, they suggested the managers require a minimum income of 3 times the rent for new tenants and for renewals. For example, if the rent is $500 per month, then the tenant must have a minimum income of $1500 per month. I found a nearby apartments complex where the rent is slightly less than what I’ve been paying, and never had trouble paying. Even so, the manager claims my income is not high enough and therefore has refused to rent an apartment to me. Some of my neighbors have reported running into the same new rule at other apartment complexes. It discriminates against part-time workers, low-wage full-time workers, retired seniors whose only income is Social Security Retirement benefits, and people like me on Social Security Disability benefits. I’ve discovered the problem is not limited to Norman in Oklahoma. It is being done by landlords and police in other cities of other states.

Before I moved to Norman in Oklahoma from Wichita in Kansas, I was in Section 8 Housing. I served one year as a representative on the Tenant Advisory Board of the local Housing Authority. I attended a HUD convention in Kansas City at Crown Center (on the Missouri side), where I met other representatives from all over the United States. The number one issue of concern we talked about is high crime in Public Housing (city owned) and Section 8 Housing (owned by private landlords). I became a victim of a crime. It was enough to cause me to leave the housing program and give up the housing aid paying over half of my apartment rent. I searched for a smaller city with a lower crime rate, and an apartments complex I could afford to live at on disability benefits without housing aid. I found Norman in Oklahoma, and the apartments complex I’ve been living at since moving here 3 May 2008. For me to get back into Section 8 Housing, or into Public Housing, I’d have to reapply. The waiting list is 1 to 2 years, too late to save me by 31 May 2015 end of current lease.

I have also considered and have been looking for a roommate deal. Such as someone who already has a two-bedroom apartment, one of the bedrooms vacant, who is seeking a roommate. Then I simply move in and start paying my share of the rent and utilities. I’d be able to afford more on a roommate deal. The problem is if something happens to one, then the other must pay all of the rent. Anyway, I’ve not found anyone willing to consider it.

I’m a former motel manager and hotel night auditor. I’ve also lived at low weekly rate motel kitchenettes long-term and liked it – one weekly payment covering everything, no deposit, no application fee. I’ve been searching all over the United States for a low weekly rate motel or hotel deal as good as what I’ve had in the past. What I’ve discovered is rates are significantly higher than what I’ve paid in the past, higher than anything I can now afford. There is also deposits and hidden fees, with a level of dishonesty I’ve never before encountered in the business. Even worse than that are horrible living conditions at all low rate hotels and motels I looked at. Also, they are extremely dangerous high crime locations.

If I stay here in Oklahoma, and have to get electric or gas in my name, not included in rent, then I’ll have to pay a $200 deposit paid to OG&E, which I can’t afford. Therefore, I’ve been seeking an apartment for which the rent includes all utilities. It is already hard enough to pay application fees, and a security deposit, to landlords, plus the first month’s rent. I’ve been seeking a furnished studio apartment for rent that includes all utilities. I do not have a car. I do not have the means to move the small amount of furniture I do have, which has almost no value anyway. No one here willing to help me move, such as someone with a pickup truck, not even for a small sum of money. For a furnished studio apartment, all utilities included, I should not have to pay more than $500 per month. I might be willing to go up to $600 per month for the right deal. If it were to include cable TV and Internet service, then I might be willing and able to go up to my ultimate limit of $700 per month. However, compared to my present deal, it should not cost more than $600 per month for an apartment. The $700 per month would be for a hotel or motel kitchenette with cable TV and Internet service.

I’ve never before had trouble finding an affordable place to live. I could usually do so in a single day. The longest it took me in the past was about one week. Now it appears to be impossible.

I don’t have a lot of camping experience. However, I do have a dome tent and a tent cot. If I could find a legal and safe place to camp, then that is an option I’d be willing to consider, especially locations where it is warm enough most of the year. Of course, I’d prefer a camping lot at a place where there are clean public restrooms and showers, as well as a combination convenience store and restaurant for food and general supplies. Electrical access would be good too with Wi-Fi for Internet. I’ve not had any luck finding anything like that.

If I leave Norman, I’ll be traveling via Greyhound Bus. To get the 50% discount I’ll have to have a destination and buy the ticket 7 to 21 days in advance I must have a destination and buy the ticket no later than May 7th. I will only take with me one suitcase (checked) and one travel bag (carry-on).

It is likely I’ll become out-on-the-street homeless on June 1st. I’ve been homeless twice before, so I know what to expect. However, the situation has changed over the years since the last time. It is now a crime to be homeless in cities of at least 33 states, so I have to avoid those locations. The City of Norman, however, instead of criminalizing homelessness here, is setting aside some money to help homeless people. As is, there is one day shelter, but no night shelter for single men like me who have no children, except a few beds during extreme cold winter weather.

I have a bicycle. I mainly use it as a cart now – its front and back baskets – to carry the weight of groceries and general supplies I get at stores about a mile from my apartment. Otherwise I use a city bus for transportation here. No car.

If I become homeless on June 1, I’ll lose my food stamps – presently $70 per month. I’ll still receive my $851 Social Security Disability payments via direct deposit into my bank account, with easy access via ATM debit card for cash.

I have Medicare, SoonerCare (Medicaid), and additional coverage I qualified for, but I no longer have an MD willing to accept it and me as a patient. I’m presently suffering from painful bleeding stomach ulcers, which can no longer be repaired. As is, the only thing keeping me alive is “old home remedies” and over-the-counter nonprescription meds. So my physical strength is very low. I’m anemic. I’m also hypoglycemic. There is also some damage to my esophagus, so I’m limited on what I can drink and eat. If I become homeless on June 1st, then the exposure at nights with no shelter is likely to cause my death much sooner than later. By the way, I permanently quit drinking all alcoholic beverages in 1986 at age 30 when I began to get bleeding stomach ulcers. I never smoked cigarettes (or anything else) because of a life-long history of bronchial asthma. I’ve never used illegal drugs. No criminal record.

I’m single. Live alone. No children. No known living relatives who I can turn to for help.

Internet redefined friendship. Before the Internet, I defined friendship as being those people who I socialize with in person. When I went on disability benefits, my social life ended. No money in budget to go out and socialize. No car. Fluctuating bad health making it hard to plan anything. Therefore, no friends (of the in person kind here in Norman) who I can turn to and ask for help. I’m alone. I’m a stranded cast-away.

I don’t know what I will do on June 1st, what I can do then or sooner. I only know so far what I can’t do. Therefore, I’m asking readers of Timeglass Journal for any advice or suggestions.

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