Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Apartment hunting

There were a lot of things that came up through this process that I wanted to record, not so much for the vent factor (although I could have used that), but because I wanted to pass along the thoughts to anyone else with HPS that might be looking at the same journey down the road.

I grew up as a military kid. In my early adult life I moved every year or two. Since I moved to Danish Village, however, I hadn’t moved for 14 years. I’d lived in Kansas City longer than that. Boy was I out of practice when it came to moving and apartment hunting!

Finding an apartment when you are ill, on disability, and moving across the country, is an entirely different animal than what I had done in the past. It wasn’t moving across town. I didn’t really have enough income to impress potential landlords or the promise of a great new job that was sure to provide that impressive and comforting income.

Poor Ryan and Sara, my brother and sister-in-law, had to investigate the apartments. I know that was extra work in their already chaotic lives. Then there was Finley. Being able to keep him, at this point in my illness, was a must. Although I have the necessary paperwork for his service dog status, there are so many people passing off a pet as a service animal, that I found many landlords just shut down at the mention of a dog. The fact that he’s a working dog didn’t seem to matter. While I’m all for being an advocate, the thing is right now I have so many battles to fight, that even if I was in the right, I didn’t want to have to fight that one on top of it all. I wanted a dog-friendly landlord.

I can’t say thank you enough to everyone who was praying for me to find just the right apartment. I think God provided, although he didn’t just let the apartment fall in my lap.

We found an apartment on Zillow. Ryan went to see it and skyped me on the phone so that I could see it as well. It was small, but what isn’t in Arlington VA in my price range? It had almost everything I wanted, and even some things I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find.

It is close to Ryan and Sara’s house, so if they need to come over to help me, or pick me up, it isn’t a huge and timely distance. It had an electric stove, something I didn’t think I would find. It is on the first floor. I was thinking I’d be lucky to find a place with a laundry that just had one flight of stairs. This building is built on a hill and there’s a wheelchair accessible apartment in the basement. This means that there is a ramp coming up from the back of the building where the laundry is to the front where my apartment is – fantastic. And, the building is dog friendly. In fact, Fin now has a few new friends.

Getting the apartment, however, was a saga I was not expecting.

This unit is a designated “affordable housing” unit. This means that you can’t make over a certain amount and still live here. No problem! My bigger problem was that I don’t even make the minimum amount. Ryan and Sara had to co-sign. There is a housing grant program here that I have applied for that will help cover some of the rent. I couldn’t apply, however, until I had a lease in my name. They couldn’t give me a letter of eligibility because until I moved, I was not a resident of Arlington. Living with Ryan and Sara, even for a bit, wasn’t really a solution technically, because Ryan and I are blood relations, and thus if I was living with him, his income would be considered. Lastly, to come here to look and live with Ryan and Sara would mean that Finley would have to go to my mother for the summer. That was a huge problem. It would mean just that more expense getting him here. Also, I’ve been training Finley as an assistance dog. That is a special relationship and it is training that takes hours and hours of time. If he spent the summer with my mom, it would be like starting over. So, ideally, I wanted to have a place rented so I could go door to door.

That was looking impossible. I was so upset and stressed out. This was the last apartment we were going to apply for before I just got on a plane and came (without Finley).

The application process was an eye opener for me. I had never before had to live in a place with subsidized rent or income restrictions. The application was 11 pages long. It asked about everything, and I do mean just about everything. I was just lucky that the company let me apply for the apartment when I wasn’t here yet. Many would not.

I had a lot riding on that apartment application, thus I was a nervous wreck the two weeks it took for the application to be processed.

I had to sign an affidavit that all the information was correct, and get every page, and the affidavit (in addition to the sworn statement on the application) notarized. But, it didn’t stop there. About every second day they would call to let me know they needed an affidavit about some other part of the application done specifically for certain things, and they had to be notarized. If I couldn’t comply by the end of the day, they would terminate my application. The apartments only had a general e-mail and it seemed like half my e-mails never went through, or the right person never saw them.

I think I walked about 35 miles in those two weeks just going up and down Metcalf to fax, overnight and notarize things. I know if my Kansas friends are reading this, they’re saying, why didn’t you call me? The reason is the time windows were always so small, and every day there was something new. You all have jobs and lives! Grin!

But, here we are in our apartment. Now we are on to the next saga – applying for an Arlington Housing Grant. I just got a letter in the mail today with a long list of additional documentation that they would like to see. Here we go! Groan!

More later about the new neighborhood. To other HPSers who might find themselves in similar circumstances trying to get a lung transplant – if you have to get financial help to afford a place to live, remember that finding the apartment, and then getting that assistance, takes time! Don’t wait until you don’t have any time left.

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