Tom VanAntwerp

My Ever Present Threat of Homelessness

It seems only natural that, after a great conference and a bit of sightseeing, I should get a call from my wife that we are about to be evicted.

I live in Arlington, Virginia, in an apartment that is designated for low-income individuals. Our zip code is in the top 98 percentile for wealth in the US. While our tax returns may make us look rather well off, we’re not. Not for where we live, anyway. I work at a nonprofit, and my wife is a bank teller. We were very lucky to qualify for our current apartment–it drastically improved our quality of life. But we’ve still had trouble improving our condition, even with assistance.

(And yes, I recognize this is all very un-libertarian of me. Fine, whatever, I’m a hypocrite–but I will do anything and everything to provide a better life for my family. And I don’t care what you think of it.)

Now we’ve received a letter from our building telling us to vacate within 30 days for not submitting our income verification paperwork. This is paperwork which the building has not asked us to submit at any time in the past year, so I’m not sure what they were expecting us to do. Read their minds?

We’re going to fight this as hard as we can. But I’m still worried we’ll lose. As I said, our on-paper income looks better than it used to. Maybe this means we can’t qualify anymore. I know that, whatever the local statistic and our tax returns say, I don’t feel very rich at all. And I’ve got not idea where else we can go. Should we go back to bad neighborhoods because we can’t afford this one anymore? Should we pay–at minimum–$500 more per month to stay roughly where we are? Should we move an hour and a half away from work, and pray in vain that Metro keeps operating? Or should we just give up this insane dream of living around the District of Columbia entirely?

Neither my wife nor I were born to money. We’ve worked very hard to get what little we have. But every day it feels like we have to work harder and harder just to stay in place. Even if this crisis hadn’t come to pass, I’ve got no idea how we will ever afford any property near where we live. I don’t know where all of the people who can afford half-million-dollar condos (on the low end) are coming from, but there are more than enough of them to price us out.

This isn’t the first time someone has tried to throw me out on the street. It’s not even the first time this company has tried it (last time was over a water bill dispute). Every couple of years, I seem to be on the verge of homelessness for one reason or another. This is no way to live. My wife deserves better than this.

I only wish I knew how to give her better than this.

Update, 10/14/2015: Valerie and I have thankfully been able to get together all the documents we need to satisfy our apartment building’s requirements and extend our lease into the next year. We’re safe for another year, but for how many more? I just want to enjoy our home for as long as we can.


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