Posts Tagged ‘DC Unemployment Office’

I woke up early this morning to see that the snow we got overnight had pretty much melted away.  At least the roads were pretty clear.  The sun was really bright today and if it wasn’t for the snow on the ground and Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of 6 more weeks of winter, you would have thought Spring was here!

I hopped in my car and headed over to the Unemployment Offices off of Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast DC.

Unemployment Office near Rhode Island Ave. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

Unemployment Office near Rhode Island Ave. (photo: Reed Sandridge)

I arrived to find out that the woman with whom I had a meeting, Ms. Bonham, was not in, probably due to the snow.  Ms. Bonham has been very good to work with.  She is professional and follows up on what she says she is going to do.  The woman at the reception said that she was aware that I would be there and that Ms. Bonham had arranged for me to meet with someone else.  I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to make another trip out there. 

The center is rather empty due to the weather I imagine.  I grab a seat and wait to be called.  Just a few minutes later the attendant asks if anyone could translate for a Spanish-speaking individual.  I offered to help.  There was nobody available there to translate.  Maybe they should hire me to translate for them there :).  After I helped the first gentleman, I was called upon again to help another man, “Miguel”.

Miguel explained that he had been unemployed and then started to work for a few days, but that ended and he was unemployed again and needed to know how to handle the situation.

Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Miguel has lived in Maryland for 20 years.  He is married and has a 5-year-old son.  I asked him what kind of work he was doing and he said he was skilled working with concrete.  If anyone knows of any job opportunities working with concrete, let me know and I will pass it along to Miguel as he doesn’t have internet and has limited English.

Miguel is seated with some other Latinos.  They are noticeably shocked when they hear what I am doing.  The fact that someone who is out of work themselves would be giving $10 away seems very foreign to them, and I have to admit it is a bit out of the box.   He says that he will use the $10 to put gas in his car. 

We chat for a while.   I learn that he loves to cook and we reminisce about Mexican food and how we both love the carne asada in Mexico.  He says he misses his parents dearly.  At some point, I get the feeling that he suspects that I may not be who I say I am…that my altruistic gesture may not be just that.  I mean, why is this strange guy giving me $10 and asking me all these questions?!?  When he learns that I will post this on the Internet, he gets uncomfortable.  He didn’t say why, perhaps he thinks that I am with the Immigration Office or something.  I offer to change his name to Miguel for the purposes of the blog and he seems to be more comfortable.

I leave to go have a call that I had scheduled with a potential employer.  Unfortunately I spent a long time waiting at the center and would have to do the call from my car.  As I sit in my car talking on my cell phone, I see Miguel walk by me to go to his car for something.  Does he think I am calling the Immigration Police right now?  I hope not.  On his way back, he smiles and gives me a thumbs up.

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Well, still no news from the DC Unemployment Office, I will have to give them a call tomorrow.

Today’s give turned out to be a new experience.  I must admit that I kind of like when things do not go as planned as long as it doesn’t involve me getting mugged or pooped on by a bird.

My day started out quite interesting.  I had a variety of phone calls in the morning related to potential work opportunities and connected with a few old colleagues.  Then on my way to my Tuesday networking group, I saw Ron from Day 24 outside the Chipotle Mexican Grill.  I was on my cell phone and quickly shouted hello and hoped to speak to him when I came out.  I met my friend Levi for lunch and thought I would take Ron something, but when I walked outside he was gone.  That is the first time I have seen a past recipient again.  But that wasn’t the only first of the day.

So later, I hopped into a coffee bar to get warm and attempt to give my $10 away.  I walked up to a man sitting by himself working on the exact same (or very similar) laptop that I have, a Lenovo X60.  By the way, it is a very small portable laptop if anyone is looking for something like that.

Anyway, it looked like Mark was entrenched in some spreadsheets.  The 51-year-old economist made a slightly wry face when I asked him if he could help me with my project.  I ensured it would only take a few minutes and he said alright as long as it didn’t take too long as he needed to finish some work.  I explained what I was doing and handed over one of the cards with the web address on it.  He seemed taken aback a bit when I asked him to accept my $10.  He left it sitting on the table in between us as if he still hadn’t completely made up his mind if he was going to take it.  In fact at one point he said, “You can have your $10 back.”  I explained that if he didn’t want to accept it, then I would have to find someone else.  So the money stayed on the table.

I commented on the convenience of him being able to work comfortably from the coffee bar.  We swapped some ideas on technology and he smiled as he remembered a story.  About 20 years ago Mark had told a boss of his that, “One day, I will be able to do my work from the top of a mountain!”  Little did he know how much the Internet would change our lives and how correct his statement would prove to be. 

Well, here is where Mark threw me a curve ball.  When I asked him what he intended on using the money for, he took a long pause and then peered back at me from behind his rectangular spectacles and said, “I don’t know yet.  Could I get back to you on that?”

Nobody has asked me for time to think about it…sure some people take a minute or two to think about it but nobody has wanted to sleep on it.  At first I didn’t know what to say.  A “condition” for receiving the money up until now has been that people had to tell me what they were going to use it for.  He had my email and said he would let me know when he had thought it through (another great benefit of technology).  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.  Here was someone who really wanted to think about it.  He wanted to make the right choice.  He didn’t want to just give me any old answer, but he wanted to give it proper consideration and then decide.  Well, I said sure.  I got his email as well, just in case Mark loses my card or forgets, I will hunt him down :).

I would love to hear Mark’s version of our encounter.  What was going through his head?  And I look forward to finding out what he plans to do with it.  I will update you when I hear from him, or maybe Mark will post something directly here in the comments.

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Well, just when I thought I had resolved the problems with my unemployment situation, I found another hurdle.  You might recall I went in person a few weeks ago and met with the facility manager at the Rhode Island Ave. location, Ms. Bonham.  When I logged into the website to check to see if my payments had been processed I saw that it had the same error as before.  I called Ms. Bonham and she remembered me right away and said she would try to resolve this once and for all.  Despite the headaches I have had getting this to work, the people at the unemployment office have been extremely friendly and professional.

I am fortunate to have a small savings that can carry me over until I find new employment.  I have a college degree, solid professional experience, car, internet access, phone, etc.  I am sure that many people who are filing for unemployment do not have these things.  What would they do if they went three months without being able to get a resolution from the unemployment office?  How would they logistically or financially get themselves to the unemployment office?  Would they be able to access all the forms that they refer to online?  Ok, I will be quiet now.

So yesterday I got home from my theatre rehearsal around 11pm.  I still needed to give away my $10 so I went out to quickly find someone before midnight.  I found Larry sitting against a bank on a busy street.  As I approached him he asked if I could spare some change.  I asked him if $10 would help and he replied, “Hell yeah!” I kneeled down beside him and gave the 54-year-old lifelong resident of DC a crisp $10 bill.  He looked at it almost as if he was checking to see if it was counterfeit and then it disappeared into his coat.

Larry has been homeless in DC for more than 10 years.  He used to be a food and beverage supervisor at the Hyatt Regency.  When he lost his job he said that things just snowballed and he ended up on the streets.  Now he spends his days and evenings panhandling.  Larry laughs easily and grins revealing that half of his upper teeth are missing.  His eyes are glassy and the alcohol on his breath smells almost medicinal.  He says his eyes are really bad.  He needs prescriptive lenses and has cataracts.  His parents have passed away, but he has three siblings, a sister with whom he has contact, another sister that he has lost contact with and a brother that he is not in touch with since he was hospitalized for mental illness.  Needless to say, Larry has a handful of issues.

He is not shy to ask me questions.  Larry investigates why I am doing the Year of Giving, what others have done with the money, etc.  He says that he will spend the $10 to get some food this week.

I stood for a second to stretch my legs.  It was uncomfortable talking to him while standing though so I returned to my squatting position.  How do baseball catchers do it…my knees are killing me.  Our conversation sailed back and forth jumping all over the map.  He proudly told me that he met Dr. Martin Luther King when he was 9 years old when the great leader was giving a speech at a DC school.  He later goes on to ask what I was going to do on Martin Luther King Day.  Interesting that he asked, as my friend Kim just invited me to participate in a day of service preparing food next Monday for Martha’s Table, an organization that helps at-risk children, youth, families, and individuals in the community improve their lives by providing educational programs, food, clothing, and other support.  We will be preparing food for them.  Thanks for including me Kim!

I started to cough and am reminded that I need to get indoors and get some rest.  I have been battling a cold for some time.  I wish Larry well, shake his hand, and head home.

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Today was a mixed bag.  Several positive things happened, but also some frustrating setbacks.

I have been battling with unemployment.  For some reason they have not paid me a dime since I filed back in September.  I have sent letters, emails, called them, all to no avail.  So, finally I decided to trek over to the closest center that they have which is on Rhode Island Avenue in NE.  I get over there and wait in line to get to the front desk only to find that they stopped letting new people in 11 minutes earlier.  So, once again, I am shot down by the unemployment office.  I will be back tomorrow or Wednesday at 8:30 am to guarantee that I get to speak to someone.

On the positive side, I got two updates from previous recipients of the Year of Giving and I heard back from two different organizations with whom I have been interviewing.  The updates were from Davie (Day 5) and Jenny (day 13).  Davie is doing well.  He used the $10 toward a bus ticket to NYC and is doing well there.  He still plans to come back to DC in January.  He was very gracious for the gift and even offered to do something in return, however, he said he wasn’t sure what that would be but said he was really good at giving mohawk, chelsea, undercut, etc. style haircuts.  Not sure how I would look with one of those, but who knows! 

You might have also seen that Jenny posted a comment.  She promises to keep us posted on her journey during the Year of Giving.

So on my way home from the failed Unemployment Office visit, I stopped at the Giant at the Rhode Island / Brentwood Metro station.  On my way out I saw a woman with a cart full of groceries waiting for someone to pick her up.  Davitia, a 32 year-old resident of NW, is a Home Health Aid.  She visits people, mostly elderly, in their homes and helps them with some of their basic routine items.  She is very kind and I am sure she brightens the day of the people that she serves. 

I got a chuckle from the response Davitia gave when I asked if she would accept the $10.  She snapped her neck back slightly and said something like, “Heck yeah!”  She smiled and I gave her the $10.  She said that the money would probably go to her Metro SmarTrip card.  Interesting that Jenny said the same thing yesterday.

I asked Davitia what she had purchased and she had the usual things to feed her family.  She has three children, so you can imagine the amount of food they go through to fill their growing bellies.  I was glad to meet Davitia…she brightened my day.

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