One recent Friday morning, I went to work. Not to any glass-blocked high rise, or a sprawl of windowless office buildings, but a corner cafe, four minutes from my apartment. With my $1.50 cup of coffee in hand, I dropped my bag and sat down next to my housemate, also a freelancer-slash-struggling-painter, and a new friend. At some point, our casual conversation turned to the stack of papers sticking out from my seam-busted bag: My application for food stamps. Turned out, this new friend had been on them for a few months. I hadn’t even noticed them tighten, but in a second, my shoulders slumped at ease.
“Go to this grocery store,” she said. “They let you buy beer and toilet paper.” I smiled slightly, less because of the beer, and more out of relief to be talking with someone who’d been through this sort of thing. I’d never been on any form of government assistance. I’d also never been more unsure of how I’d make rent in a few weeks.