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    Sunday, May 18, 2008

    Hard Work Delayed In Leiu Of Other Hard Work

    I wrote on Wednesday about how we were going to have a moving party on the 15th, and much to the chagrin of my mother's landlord, we have been forced to reschedule.

    The new party is scheduled for Monday morning after 11am.

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    It's a long story, but a good one. An entertaining adventure when retold, to say the least.

    We signed the lease on our new place at 1pm on Thursday, the 15th, and there the story begins. Right after that paperwork was completed, we trekked over to the utility company to get the power turned on in my name.

    See, ever since my mother and I took out that loan together in 2000, the one I gave her the money to pay, but she never did, and my credit got fragged, I've had a BIG problem with sharing any bills with anyone, for any reason. This is an integral part to the story.

    When we arrived, they insisted that Keebler get added to the bill because he is on the lease. They said there is some sort of new rule stating that all people on a lease must be on the utility bill despite my desire to be the only person responsible for my bills, so we handed over his ID as well as mine.

    In return, they handed us a bill for nearly $600! It seems that before I met him and his family, his late wife was in charge of the bills, and she conveniently forgot to pay for three months. When she passed on from this world, he was so distressed that he didn't think to check on the utility bill himself, and I was so busy helping them to move into a new home, deal with the grief of her passing, and rebuild their lives that I didn't think of it either.

    Neither of us knew about the bill, which was dated February of 2005, two months after her passing, two months after they moved out of the apartment they shared together as a family. Either his late wife wasn't paying the bills, or he forgot to cancel their utility service when they moved, and the landlord didn't bother to do it either.

    We had had no way of knowing either, as there had been no contact, attempts at collection, or hiring of a collection agency in all that time. Most profitable companies will not let a bill go unpaid for more that 3 months without attempting collection of some sort, and no successful venture I have ever heard of will let a bill go unpaid for as long as a year without sending the bill to a collection agency, and that includes the local library! It's not like he was difficult to find, what with a few free magazine subscriptions being delivered, his resume all over the internet, and more. The only conclusion I can come to, is that they weren't concerned about the bill enough to place any effort whatsoever into retrieving payment.

    Thus, we had a conundrum. We had a lease, had paid all of the deposit and first month's rent, and only had enough money to pay the $150 security deposit that the company requires for all new residential activations, regardless of billing history.

    I thought fast and offered to take his bill under my name and credit, and pay an additional $100 per month on top of our service bill in order to get it paid off. I have over three years of exemplary payment history with them, but they said they'd been duped too many times, by too many people who have offered them the same thing in the past, and that no amount of honesty or good standing would make them change their minds.

    I then offered to have him taken off of our new lease by the landlord and have him live with his mother until he got his bill paid off, then we would add him to the lease, let him move in with us, and add his name to our bill. They denied that as well, saying that they "knew" he would still be living with the rest of us, regardless of whether that would be breaking my lease, and all applicable laws. I guess real honesty and honor are worthless these days, and the good and true must pay the price for those of ill will who came before them. Sad really.

    I had wanted so bad, to take care of it myself, and pay the bill on my own, despite the fact that it was not my responsibility to do so. Unfortunately, the utility company refused to let us do the right thing.

    We left that office, and after a few tears of righteous and angry frustration, we started to work. I'm usually the person folks come to when they have a question about the places to go for assistance. As I later found out, I know much more about local orgs than the new 211 number run by the united way, that is supposed to be a repository for such information, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

    We drove first to the OACAC office, as everyone knows that's the first place you go to get assistance with utility payments. After hearing me relate our tale, the woman at the desk said they had no money left, and would not have any more until the first of the month, but I was welcome to call the number for the S.H.A.R.E. program and leave a message for them so that I could speak to a caseworker and see if there was any way someone with that program could give me assistance. I thanked her for her help, called and left my message, and we left to continue our quest.

    On a desperate whim, we dropped back in at the utility office in order to speak to a supervisor and see if we could get someone with the company to see reason and let us work something out so we could pay them ourselves. After a minute or two of speaking with me and looking sympathetic, or at least as if she cared a little, she went to a cold, dead stare. As I continued to nearly beg her to trust in my good name and great payment history, she went from simply heartless to hateful, pursing her lips, squinting her eyes, and glaring. After a moment of that, she acted fed up and told me to go sit down. I wasn't going to waste our time sitting around waiting for her to bad mouth us to her supervisor, or worse, the security guard, when I could be spending that time finding resources to help us achieve our goal.

    To make a long and detailed story slightly shorter, let me simply say that until 6pm, I drove all over town visiting places and asking for help. We went to the Victory Mission, where we were told to try asking the women at their thrift store, there, where they were shocked that we had been referred to them by the main office, to The Kitchen, where we got a few leads for privately funded assistance, and made several phone calls, leaving messages on a good number of answering machines.

    During our travels, we got a return call from one of the women who helps administer the S.H.A.R.E. program, and we set an appointment for 8:30am the next morning. It was the soonest appointment they had.

    By the end of the day, we had worked hard, and driven ourselves to exhaustion looking for a solution. But we had an early morning, so we went on to bed.

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    After the coffee vital before such an excursion, we headed off to start another busy day.

    While waiting for our appointment the next morning in the office, we found this month's copy of Family Motor Coaching magazine. The discovery of an RV magazine made just for families with children was a pleasant surprise, as I hadn't previously known one existed, and it was a fun read while we waited. At the appointment, we provided all of the proofs and paperwork we'd printed out the night before, and shared our journey thus far while filling out the necessary paperwork to apply for assistance. The worker went to make some copies and returned to chat for a little more, when all of a sudden, she informed us that we had been chosen to receive the maximum amount their program could gift, $300! With over 50% of the bill taken care of, we gave huge thanks to both the individuals, deity, and the forces that worked to help us out. An exceedingly rare occurrence, one can never get an appointment for any of the programs OACAC administers in less than a week, and even after the appointment, it usually takes a day or two to find out if one has actually received the assistance or not.

    An amusing aside; The S.H.A.R.E. program is run by the utility company.

    Crosslines was next on my list. They don't usually help with utility assistance, but are known to help with rent assistance, and since we couldn't legally get the key to our home until we got the utilities switched over, it was a situation where both types of help might be applicable. I related my story there, to a surprisingly uncaring, and unhelpful social worker. Surprisingly so, because we had been smiling and waving at each other for years before I needed any assistance. I had only hoped she may be able to give me advice on where to go or call in our strange situation, but she offered nothing. My guess is she is only pleasant to those who need no help. Either that, or When I asked her if she knew of any place where I might be able to get help, she thought I was badgering her or something. Assistance orgs get a lot of badgering, so I wouldn't doubt the second option by much, despite my politeness.

    From Crosslines, we went to the office of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks next door. This is the place that connects the funding from the churches to Crosslines for distribution to those in need, the first help center in Springfield that formed a community garden (albeit a very small one), and also a great place to gather up information on services available to those in many different walks of life. While the secretary was on the phone, I browsed the paperwork laid out on a nearby table, finding things representing many places, including a disability advocate group, and a flier advertising the informational toll free 211 number. After hearing my tale, the secretary gave me the numbers for a couple of places I already knew about, but also wrote down the number for Legal Aide, saying that our situation was so odd we might look into taking the utility company to court! Again, thanks were made, and we journeyed on.

    After visiting a church I went to as a child when we first moved to Springfield, and speaking with a woman who had me fill out an application and said she'd call me when she found out if they could help any, we went to a the Well of Life to talk to them. While they didn't have any funding to even buy food for their charity pantry, I was able to offer the woman at the desk some assistance with finding help to trace her native lineage.

    Afterwards, we went back to where we are staying, had lunch, called the landlord to give them an update on how things were going, called a bunch of other churches in the area and some long-shot community orgs that ended up not being able to help, but I ended up introducing two nonprofits to Freecycle(tm) so they could get more assistance for their clients anyway, so some good was done. *smile*

    While we were doing that, I was called by the woman at the church, who told me that they were able to promise a goodly amount to the bill!

    Then we stopped in at the Salvation Army and waited to talk to the caseworker there. As we sat, I called the 211 number and some other places to find more help, but the 211 number had far less information than I had before we even started on our quest, and all I managed to do was confirm that no-one had any money, and funding was really tight. A little later, we got called into the office, and the caseworker, like most of the other folks we spoke with, was quite befuddled at the actions of the utility company, but they also had no money they could use to help. She was really friendly and helpful however, and on our way out, I offered to volunteer face painting at any children's events they might have in the future, as I might not have money to donate to them, but I do have a service I can donate to help out in some small way.

    By this time, it was almost 3pm on Friday. I only allowed myself until 4pm to find more help before I would go back to CU and beg them again to maybe let me make a deal since I had gained promise of so much of the bill amount.

    I stopped in at one more church and spoke with a lovely woman through their front door's intercom, but they couldn't help either, so I made my way to the utility office to try and again beg them to be reasonable, somehow.

    The lobby was crowded, and we took a number. Our number was 35, the little sign above the number machine said they were on number 5, so we settled in for a bit of a wait, and I called our landlord to get them up to date on what was going on so far. While I was there, I got a call saying that another had donated the remaining bill amount to the cause!

    The bill was paid in full!

    Numbers were being called left and right, as people who had taken numbers had also entered the faster "payments only" line and had gone away. In no time at all, we were at the window paying the security deposit and getting the electricity switched over to our names.

    Hallelujah!

    I called the landlord while we were making the payment and told them that we would be down there immediately to get the key to our apartment.

    The time was 4:45pm.

    We drove safely but quickly from one side of town to the far opposite side, but I didn't count on rush hour just-got-out-of-work traffic. If I had thought of it at the time, I would have taken the highways, but I didn't, so we arrived at the office after they had already left, and we were unable to get the key.

    We have to wait until Monday when the office reopens to get the key and start moving in.

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    All we can do now is give thanks and wait. Well, that, and spend an entire day on the computer doing nothing but writing a blog post. *wink* Despite my natural ability to find resources and solve problems in an emergency, no amount of knowledge or talent could have managed this feat alone without the hand of god involved to a massive degree. The thanks are plentiful and ongoing to all who helped, including those who didn't even know they had a hand in it, like those who add a little extra to their utility bill for charity, or give to their churches.

    There are no words to properly express how blessed we feel.

    So now you know why the moving party is now scheduled to begin Monday morning, and last throughout the day until the job is done. After the moving, there will only be party and unpacking left, so no matter how late you get off work or become available, give us a call and stop on by!

    2 comments:

    Rambleman said...

    Glad that the utility bill was paid in full, especially after all that drama. *HUGS*

    faithib said...

    I'm so glad everything worked out so well!!
    You are your little fam need to be in your own home!!
    Hugs to you all!