A few weeks ago, my son Aran, who is nineteen and autistic, applied for Medicaid-subsidized housing. Or rather, I applied for it on his behalf. After a long interview and an examination of his medical and psychological records, the Department of Developmental Services regretted to inform him that he was denied housing.
I filed an appeal.
Last week, I had to take Aran back for said appeal. The social worker, apparently one higher up on the scale than the previous one, said she would run Aran through the entire intake a second time to see what was what and make a final decision.
This took more than two grueling hours. We went over every aspect of Aran’s life and his ability. I was forced to make him look as helpless as possible, emphasize what he couldn’t do, minimize his accomplishments. It was horrible.
Several times, the social worker said that Aran is in a gray area when it comes to state aid like this. He can’t function entirely on his own, but he’s too high-functioning to be a shoo-in for help.
“We mostly deal with people who have severe mobility issues or who need help with daily hygiene or who can’t do things like eat on their own,” she said.
“Who will help Aran when I can’t?” I countered. “I won’t be able to do it forever. Who will handle this when I’m not here?”
She acknowledged, not without kindness, that this was a problem. “But our budget has been repeatedly cut,” she added. “And unfortunately, it’s not likely to get better.”
By this, she meant the recent election, of course.
In the end, the social worker checked the lists, ticked the boxes, and regretfully announced that Aran’s appeal was denied.
“However, I can recommend him for Mental Health Services,” she said.
“Do they help with housing?” I asked.
“Sometimes. It requires another appointment and intake with a new agency.”
“What’s the source of housing funding?” I asked, more than a little unhappy that I knew to ask this question. “Section 8? Medicaid?”
“I honestly have no idea,” she admitted. “But they’ll be able to tell you.”
The new agency, it turned out, only accepts intake appointments between 10 AM and 1 PM on certain days of the week, meaning I would have to take an entire day off work to take Aran in. I simply can’t do that after losing an entire week of work to upcoming surgery. I was forced to cast far ahead and make an appointment in late December, when I’m on winter break.
I’m trying to be hopeful about this and having a hard time of it.
When people wonder why so many of us are upset about the election results, I point to my son. Republicans don’t fund housing programs for the handicapped. They don’t fund food stamps for such people. They cut funds for social services when the handicapped need them most. And we now have the most conservative, Republican administration in long history.
Things will only get worse. You can imagine my fear and rage at the results of the latest election. No one seems to care that it’s putting my autistic son on the street.
–Steven Harper Piziks