Saturday, April 15, 2006

From Professor to Low Income Housing

My mom was an associate professor at an elite Chinese Communist institution. She didn’t stay long enough to earn her seniority for a full professorship. Instead, she went to Columbia to be with my dad, who was a diplomat living in Bogotá at the time. Later my mom came to America through her relatives. She came here for her freedom and a better future for her children. She gave up an established career, secure income, all rights to her published and unpublished books. There were some very happy co-authors for a few years. Since she doesn’t speak enough English to teach Russian or Chinese, and doesn’t write enough English to publish research articles, my mom worked odds and ends jobs. When I first came here, she was a research assistant for a “Chinese expert” at Hoover Institution. Some how she managed to pay taxes for 10 years so she can qualify for SSI. Section 8 is a county issued voucher for low-income families. It allows the holder to pay 30% of the monthly income for rent, and the county kicks in the rest. Only some apartments accept these vouchers, in fact, very few. There is usually a long waiting list for the vouchers, in Santa Clara county it’s like a 5-year wait to get Section 8 housing, if they can get on the waiting list. It’s a little easier to get it in Monterey County. In order for my mom to keep getting her Section 8 vouchers she has to maintain her low-income status. She recently gave up pursuit of a grant to finish writing her memoir. She fears that the additional income will change her situation, she’d have to move, arrange her own medical care, etc. and that’s just too much hassle to be worth the grant in itself. Maybe she just doesn’t want to write any more, who knows. She does have a good network around her, there is a social worker checks on her once a month, and they pay for a full time caregiver when she’s sick. It would be hard to replace that.

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