By: Buddy Wolfe
After a three-year struggle with devastating poverty, finally I had run out of money, I could not pay rent for December and I was two months delinquent on my electricity bill from Florida Power and Electric, which unlike other states does not offer, despite its statement online that it does, the HEAP (High Energy Assistance Program) for low income persons.
I was faced with electricity cutoff and a three-day eviction notice and the prospect of becoming homeless. Given my age, 81, and my medical conditions – coronary artery disease, bradycardia (slow heartbeat), prostate cancer, skin cancer, osteoarthritis – being homeless probably would amount to a death sentence. I was out of options. I had applied for around 500 jobs, wasted thousands of hours and a few hundred dollars on the applications, and had nothing to show for the effort – nobody would hire me to do anything.
Before I did that I had tried to resurrect my ebooks operation – The Mind Opening Books, http://TheMindOpeningBooks.us – that had produced sales until the “financial crash” in the second week of October 2008 stopped them cold, at the same time that royalties on my books still in print dried up. All I succeeded in doing in trying more and more promoting was to wipe out my savings.
I had also sent out dozens of articles, essays, and verse to editors who do not know me because I was out of writing for 20 years running a non-profit educational and legal project, and all of the editors I worked with before that bought my articles and essays and books were dead or had retired.
I had tried to get a book contract of the kind I once obtained easily, with advances against royalties, but not one in a hundred editors of book publishing houses would provide a contract. I had tried to obtain more grants from organizations that had supplied them before either for work on articles and books or for financial help, but I was told they had gone as far as they could with me.
Since I have been such a dismal financial failure, I cannot blame them. So, I was out of options and was even considering what I never would before: taking my own life.
Three years of struggling against all odds to survive financially had made life so stressful, depressing, and miserable that there seemed to be no point in remaining alive – except that I have some more writing I want to do, and I owe thousands of dollars to individuals and organizations that had made loans to me with expectation of my repaying them, and I owe it to them to keep trying.
I asked around three dozen organizations in Florida and a few more elsewhere for financial assistance, having found on the internet statements from them that they offer it. But when I applied to them, I was told by all of their staff that they are out of funds – with two exception: the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Florida Division of the American Legion.
As a member of the Legion (I am a veteran of the Korean War), I am eligible for certain types of benefits if they are available, while as a wholly irreligious person I would consider it more of an imposition than any kind of eligibility for help from a Christian organization. The Florida Legion office had some funds and paid my electricity bill. Rent payment was left to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Actually, it was to be the local division of the Society that handled my request: the St. Thomas More Catholic Church here in Boynton Beach, Florida.
I was told by the vice president of the Church that they could offer only $50 to 75 per applicant from the contributions in their church “poor box” because there were so many requests for help. To my surprise, or actually amazement, the president overrode her and told her to write a check made out to my landlord for the full amount of my rent. I asked why, but got no explanation.
It was just something the president wanted to do. All I can think of is that over the years, though I am neither Catholic nor a Christian of any kind, I have worked on social reform with Catholics, have written for Catholic periodicals, and have twice won the Catholic Press Association Journalism Award – once for best non-fiction and once for writing that most clearly expresses the Spirit of Ecumenism promulgated by Pope John XXIII.
Full payment of my rent has bought time for me to keep trying to generate income beyond my monthly Social Security benefit that does not even pay for both rent and food, much less all the other necessities of life (my SS benefit is very low because I was mostly self-employed). Once again the President, the members of Congress, and their prostitutes at the U.S. Census Bureau have lied about the percentage rise in the cost of living, so that Social Security need be raised only 1.5 percent.
But guess what happens to those of us on food assistance. The amount of that is immediately reduced because we are getting a bit more income from Social Security. In this society, if you are enmeshed in poverty you just cannot win. I continue to be in a perilous situation. I will be able to manage a rent payment for January, but unless I can find a way to generate income beyond my Social Security benefit, by the third week once again I will be facing homelessness – and its consequences.
All I can say is that I will be working seven days a week, as I have for most of my life since age eight, and if I go down it will not be because I did not work my old butt off trying to avoid it. I hope to write something about the St. Vincent de Paul Society, its people, and its work.
If ever there is an organization that you might want to support, make it the St. Vincent de Paul Society, even if you are not Catholic, even if you are not religious. Its members and officers are beautiful people, people who are among the most compassionate, humane, and generous of the 21st Century.
Please click below to donate to St. Vincent de Paul Society of Palm Beach County for Christmas and beyond:
Burton H. (Buddy) Wolfe: The Improbable but True Career of Buddy Wolfe
Beginning at age eight when he was called “Buddy” (and still is by old friends who have not passed on yet), the admittedly aberrant career of this stubborn old fart, who refuses to die and get off the earth to make way for new people., has consisted in chronological order of the following: home lawn gardener, newspaper delivery boy, wagon hauler for women who overloaded at the market, summer camp bus boy, summer camp waiter, soda fountain jerk, high school sports reporter for the subsequently defunct Washington Daily News, Xmas/New Year holiday U.S. Post Office package delivery man, trumpet player in the Washington Redskins marching band and solo trumpet in a dance band, administration office clerk at George Washington University, sports editor of The Hatchet when that was the only periodical at GWU, summer camp counselor and bus driver, copyboy/cub reporter for The Washington Post, Seventh U.S. Army G-2 Intelligence secret files clerk and then copy desk editor-features writer-Navy and Air Force weekly supplement editor-travel and poetry editor at Stars & Stripes in Europe as service on active Army duty during the Korean War, state reporter- photographer for the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press, cable editor and reporter in the San Francisco bureau of International News Service, Publisher-Editor of The Californian (one of three periodicals that touched off the Alternative Press), public relations director and events coordinator for reform ticket in Operating Engineers Union election, President of the Classic Guitar Society, public information man for B’nai B’rith and ghostwriter for its international president, Publications Editor for the American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees AFL-CIO and ghostwriter for its president, Senior Editor/Writer at Civic Education Service for its senior high school weekly reader American Observer and its textbooks, ghostwriter (briefly) for Playboy publisher Hugh Heffner, part-time editor for Resident Physician magazine, department store salesman, warehouse clerk, taxicab driver, contributing editor/writer Ramparts magazine, featured writer and columnist for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, resident manager and then property manager for 41-unit apartment building, chauffeur for the widow of the senior partner of California’s largest law firm, chauffeur for the chairman and president of the board of the world’s largest freight forwarding service, chauffeur for the president of the California Insurance Council, director of the non-profit Homosapiens Educational & Legal Project, legal agent for benefit seekers before various state and federal government administrative agencies, public interest litigator in the state and federal courts, president of tenants’ committee in senior citizens’ complex, publisher of Wild West Publishing House, publisher of The Mind Opening Books – http://TheMindOpeningBooks.us
Not in Chronological order, but rather spaced over 60 years: Author of hundreds of articles and essays published in major newspapers and magazines, author of subject-definitive books such as The Hippies (New American Library), Hitler and the Nazis (Putnam), and Pileup on Death Row (Doubleday) used as basic sources for study in high schools and universities across the U.S.