Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I'm A Blank To Fill In

Her name is Cindy.

She works at Main Street Properties at 2111 West Main Street in Richmond.

Her number is 804-355-5775.

And here's how she's screwing with my life:

I've applied for a wonderful apartment in Carytown. Lots of windows, a sun room, a deck out back with a large fenced-in yard. A comfortable front porch, too. And it's just at my limit for rent. $595 a month.

After being forced to abandon my dream to re-create a bit of what I enjoyed in New Orleans, namely, a place where I lived, worked, practiced drums and often threw loud drunken parties, I resigned myself to live in simply a "residence" like in the rest of America. Okay. No big deal; I'm making arrangements to do my artwork outside of town in a building on a farm north of the city and the partying will just have to wait.

I'll adjust.

Well, I applied, told them everything they need to know and don't need to know and then I waited the weekend to learn my fate:

Yes, I have rotten credit.

Stop the presses! Joe Kight, artist, has bad credit!

There's not a soul on the planet who doesn't know that!!! And for the past year I've made great gains on the problem.

Really. But rental agency clerks couldn't care less.

So I called for Cindy on Monday. Twice she couldn't talk to me. But she called me back just before 5:00, deliberately, surely, to tell me that she couldn't help me.

"But I've qualified with FEMA for housing assistance," I told her.

"Then I'll need a letter from FEMA telling me that they'll pay your rent for twelve months." (I'm sure FEMA is filled to the brim with secretaries with nothing to do but write direct, individual letters to people like Cindy.)

"What?! I've shown you the paperwork from FEMA that says: 'you're qualified for assistance'."

"You're unemployed," she said.

"The whole Gulf South is unemployed, but I'm self-employed" I responded. "Look. I've got six thousand bucks, FEMA as a co-signer, and work waiting for me once I get a damned house to live in."

Cindy was "sorry."

Sure. I offered other co-signers but to that Cindy responded not.

Richmond's hard-hearted candidate of the month, no doubt.

Rental agency office clerks of the world are putting the screws to Joe Kight.

Frustrated. Angry. Displeased with myself. Feeling vulnerable. Wishing somebody in a rental office would treat me like a person instead of a blank to fill in on an application.

When, when will the winds from this damned hurricane stop blowing???

Want to do me a favor? Give Cindy a call and tell her you know me and that I'll pay my rent on time, will you? Vouch for your little writing buddy over here.

Homeless in Richmond, Virginia is becoming no fun at all.

Thanks, Cindy.


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8:41 AM  
Anonymous sara said...

sara essex here.
what is w/ spamming on blogs???
anyway, below is a copy of the letter i wrote dear old cindy.
maybe a bit reactionary. maybe not?

October 5, 2005

Cindy Proffitt
Main Street Properties
2111 Main Street
Richmond, VA 23220

Dear Cindy,

I spoke with you on the phone today regarding Joe Kight’s rental application.
I understand that you are simply doing your job, but perhaps in some circumstances, a little human compassion is permitted. Giving that he had $6000 in the bank, and work lined up, requiring a letter from FEMA was completely unnecessary. Do you realize how difficult it is to even get someone on the phone at FEMA, much less write a letter? He offered to have someone co-sign for his lease. Why was that not sufficient, given his circumstances?
As you can see from my return address, I am also from the devastated area of New Orleans. My home is not going to be habitable for at least 6 months. I am in Nashville, and relying on the kindnesses of many random strangers, who, thankfully, have bent some rules for me. My landlord here in Nashville gave me my apartment on a month to month lease, and no deposit, because he understood the severity of my situation. He didn’t even have me fill out an application, much less do a credit check. He simply met me at a coffee shop, and decided to trust me.
I know Joe Kight well, and if you met him and didn’t trust him and like him immediately, then there must be something wrong with you.
If you did trust him, and like him as I’m sure you did, then here was your opportunity to do something tangible for someone who has lost everything, but someone who is smart and capable and optimistic enough to start his life over in a new city.
And he chose Richmond.
Unfortunately, you were one of the first people in Richmond who could help him.
When I spoke to you, I, rather rudely I admit, asked if you could sleep at night. You responded very calmly, “I can.”
Wow. I can’t. Joe Kight can’t. Half a million displaced Americans can’t. It must be nice for you.
I hope and pray that the city of Richmond never ever has to experience anything even close to what we have gone through in New Orleans.
If you do, Cindy, don’t bother coming to New Orleans. No one there will help you.
His story and your behavior are becoming well known.
You should read more than just what he wrote about you. Read the horrors of what people have been going through, and you might get an inkling of the audacity of your request for a letter from FEMA.
I’m sure there are kind and sensible people in Richmond, and I know Joe will find a place to live. I’m sorry you missed this opportunity to do some good in the world.
Sweet dreams.

Sara Essex
PO Box 22093
Nashville, TN 37202

cc: William White, President of the Board, Richmond Association of Realtors,
Mayor L. Douglass Wilder

9:48 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

thank you sara!


7:18 AM  

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