|Anyone remember when this was called "food stamps,"|
and actual pieces of paper changed hands in exchange for
the purchase of food?
Perhaps the single most frustrating aspect of being homeless in this country is the feeling of abject helplessness that comes along with it, the same lack of control over one's own decisions that children often experience. Except I lived through that phase once--I didn't expect to have to do it again when I'm pushing forty, and at this age, it is a helplessness that can often breed far more dangerous hopelessness, as well. This frequently becomes a cycle from which there is seemingly no escape. Choices which are second nature to the average American adult suddenly become severely curtailed for those who are deemed to have failed within the system, and therefore must ask for charity. I cannot simply choose which foods to buy in a grocery store based on what I'm in the mood to eat or what's most convenient that evening; there are rules by which I have to abide, and they have nothing to do with junk food vs. healthy choices, despite the connotations of the graphic above. I can buy all the chips and soft drinks I want, but if it's a hot food, pre-prepared by the government's definition, I've lost the privilege of buying it. Not to mention that basic toiletry items are out of bounds because they're not food.
|Flag of the Department of|
Health and Human Services,
under whose auspices
Medicaid programs in each state fall.
|Image of a root canal, the procedure that could potentially|
save my tooth and prevent a gap in my mouth that would lead
straight up into my left sinus cavity.
The American public could be saved untold millions of dollars every year if Medicaid and Medicare covered conditions that were still mild and as yet easily treatable, but our governmental guidelines define catching and treating a condition early as simply "elective" procedures. Last week, an oral surgeon informed me that one of my molars has roots that stretch into my sinus cavity; having this tooth pulled will leave me with a hole in my mouth that runs straight up into my sinuses. Several procedures will probably be required to get this gaping maw to close properly, each necessarily paid for by Medicaid, and I face a long, extended period of misery, during which I will probably develop numerous sinus infections, for which taxpayers will also have to foot the bill for treatment. "A root canal is definitely the way to go," the surgeon informed me, and then confirmed that my information was correct--Medicaid doesn't cover root canals. As a matter of principle.
For the three months that I've been in Denver, I've been building a support network of therapists, physicians, pharmacies, local library, and offices of government agencies, in the city of Lakewood, Colorado--now a suburb of Denver proper, like so many other surrounding cities--because that's where I was staying in a friend's basement. All of this was done in order to begin to give my life new order, new stability, in hopes of rebuilding any kind of life at all. But I no longer have control over so simple a matter as the city in which I live. This week, because of circumstances beyond the power of any of my friends and loved ones, I had to move to the home of two other friends, in Westminster, Colorado, some 20 minutes' drive away from all those resources I've been building up. I sometimes find it difficult, because of all the pressures mounting on me and my psychological issues, to get out of bed and drive to the pharmacy a block away from my former residence to pick up the subscriptions necessary for my health and well-being. The thought of this additional drive, let alone of having to switch all of these necessary resources to locations in a different city, exhausts me. Just the idea of it. And without the help of my loyal friends, I don't have the gas money to make that drive, anyway.