Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Mate Of A Mate Told Me...

...a pack of lies. Pure and simply put, your mate of a mate told you a pile of crap.

It's one of the most common mantras that we hear on a daily basis; "A mate of a mate told me..." or, "I know this guy who knows this person and they did/got/heard about..." I'm here to tell you that none of the myths you've heard are based in truth at all. And doesn't it upset people when you tell them the real story, because what you're doing is calling either them, or their mate of a mate, liars. I don't believe they are liars, but knowing what they're saying isn't the truth means that they're not on the level.

First one: "My mate knows this girl and she applied for a house and got one two weeks later." Wrong. Doesn't happen. Has never happened. I'd heard this one too, before I started work. I stay in touch with some people from where I grew up and this one has been around since the early 1980s. This myth has gathered so much moss that I've asked pretty much everyone I've worked with if they'd ever heard of anyone who applied and got housed within a fortnight. Hell, I even extended it to a month. The answer, across the board, from management and people who've worked there for over 20 years was the same: "Nope, never happened. I've never heard of it happening and there's no way known it could happen - too many procedures to go through." So your mate doesn't know a girl who got housed within two weeks.

When someone tells me that, and they're usually fairly angry by that point (and understandably so if they've been waiting a few years for a house, in some cases since the 1970s) I always ask for the address/name/details of that girl so I can look her up and verify it. That shuts them up, or makes them even angrier ("You calling' me a f*ckin' liar???" Well, no, but yessssss) but it has the desired result. I then explain the processes needed to get a house and they start to either calm down or get angrier. Either way they'll go away.

Second one; "A mate of a mate says that there's a priority list within the priority list." Nope. Wrong, wrong, wrong. We have four categories, that's well documented. You come in and ask and we'll explain it. Cats 1 through to 4. Cat 4 is for people who can more than support themselves in the private rental market - they have well paying jobs, have no social restrictions and are doing damn well. People rarely, if ever, get housed on Cat 4. Cat 3 is where people usually go. That's the general list. Usually, depending on where you want to go, and what you want (more on that one in a second) you'll have a long wait. The state government wants to eliminate Cat's 3 & 4 entirely and remove all those people from our books. Eventually I expect it'll happen as there's far more people there than we have property. Cat 2 is for people in need, but who have shown they can support themselves in the private rental market with help (oddly enough most homeless people fall under this category - and nope, I've yet to work that out. If they're homeless then clearly they can't support themselves, but there you go). People can wait for quite a few years for housing on Cat 2, again depending on needs and location. Cat 1 is the priority list, and that's where the fun really starts.

It's not easy to get onto Cat 1. We need some damn good support letters (some people just keep submitting the same letters over nad over thinking we're too stupid to read them - here's a hint, we do read them) and a lot more. We need for the person to demonstrate the need for our housing, because we have to justify it to all the people they've leapt over. They need supports in the community. They need interviews, assessments - it's a lot of work really. But it is the prize. On Cat 1 you're waiting, on average, for about 18 months to 4 years, again, depending on location and needs. It's a fast track, but it can take up to eight months to get approved from your original application.

However once you're there there's nowhere else to go. People get approved and keep bombarding us with support letters thinking that they can get onto this 'secret' list, the ultra secret Cat 0. No such animal. There is no priority list within the priority list. Once you're on the priority list you'll stay there, every six months or so you'll be called in for an interview to demonstrate you still need housing (it's a full time job getting onto Cat 1, it's a part time job staying there - one slip and you're back to Cat 2) and when your number is up you'll get a house. And that's it. There's no secret list. No priority list within the priority list.

Third one; "My mate says you guys get a listing of private rentals every day that isn't circulated to the papers and that you can set people up with these places." Nope. We don't have any such animal. The truth is that while we assist with bonds and rents, we have no idea what's out there in regards to private rentals and frankly we don't want to know, nor do we overly care. We photocopy the rental lists from the newspaper each morning and that's all we have. But still people will come in and demand to see the so called 'secret list'. They get fairly upset when we explain that the list doesn't exist.

So how do you get into a decent place for private rental? Easy - go within your price range and look around. About 10% of all private rental appears in the newspapers, the rest are kept in-house with the real estate agents. Go and actually visit the real estate agents and ask what's out there. Put your name down. Tell them what you can afford and exactly what you're looking for and, amazingly enough, you'll soon find yourself in a decent, affordable place in no time. Some more hints - don't lie to the real estate agents, dress well (neat and tidy), have a wash and don't swear at anyone. But don't be asking us for a list of housing because we just don't have one. We help enough with the bond and rent in advance - it's up to the person themselves to actually find a place.

Fourth one; "A mate says that if I badger you guys you'll give me a house." That ain't gonna work either, but by all means, take your best shot. It won't speed your application up, but it might slow it down. Nah, seriously, it won't do a single thing except annoy us, and if you get the right people you'll just wander away equally as annoyed. This one brings us to the fifth one...

"A mate of a mate told me that if one office doesn't give me what I want just go to another and they will." Yeah, of course that'll work because we're all idiots and don't have computer systems with a database that we use to record the nature of visits. Because when you go from office to office you won't have every person on the counter reading the notations that have been left, and those people won't have a chuckle to themselves and tell you what you've already heard, six times that day, word for word. That stuff really amuses us no end. Waste your time and your petrol. If you've been turned down at one office then you're going to be turned at every office, especially if you get more agitated and start swearing.

Sixth one; "My mate says if I'm in one of your houses then you guys will give me $50,000 in cash to buy it." I have no idea what idiot started that one off, but let me put it to bed - we don't arrange home loans and we don't give out that much money, otherwise I'd be asking for some of that cabbage. Try HomeStart, EquityStart or one of the other government cash cows. We just don't have the cash, or the resources to arrange home loans on top of everything else we do.

There's more, but they can wait for another day. We can do a lot of things, and indeed we do a lot of things, but there's more myth that surrounds us, due to Chinese whispers, than the reality. Doesn't stop people from coming in and asking, and when the answer is negative, from abusing us. And there's the trick - if you want service then don't abuse us, swear, threaten or intimidate. It just doesn't work. However, and this is the biggest myth of them all, people believe that they need to do all of that in order to get good service. Beats me why people think that but allow me to burst that bubble: swearing, abuse, threats and the like does not equal good service. Quite the opposite really. When you come in try a smile, be polite and see the difference...


Anonymous said...

Glad to see you are back.

It disturbs me to hear the issues you deal with. I do not come into contact with anyone who remotely resembles any of your customers (or some of your co workers). Are such poorly educated/ socialised/ house trained people in large numbers in the general community, or are they just a very small, but memorable section of the many you deal with?

The Regional Support Clerk said...

Well we deal more with people with social issues than we don't - if that makes sense. By all means we deal with a lot of decent people, who do the right thing and speak to us normally. Sadly I'd say for every one of those people we'd probably see about three others who are either outright rude or just lack the basics of social interaction.

I tend to walk away from each day looking at the wins I've made. However you do have to look at the losses and have a chuckle, because if you took them seriously you'd eventually go mad.

elizabeth said...

hahaa, i work in a bar and what we always get is "i know the boss" or "where's your boss, im gonna complain about you" when the boss is the one that sets the rules and procedures we follow.

some people just dont understand rules. great stuff youre writing!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am more worried about why and how we have ended up with such people in number in the community. We are not talking about people who have serious mental issues. Even ignoring some criminality, these people are seemingly just poorly do they survive without being to interact with other people? What about their employers,families, teachers?

The Regional Support Clerk said...

I can understand the people with issues, such as intellectual disabilities or even the druggies that have fried their brains. But the sheer amount of people who are just plain rude to us amazes me. I'm not sure if it's that "You're govt employees thus you deserve to be treated like crap" syndrome or just that people these days have no manners. What I tell people is, "Hey, we're helping you here. How about some common courtesy?" and that usually pulls them up.

Not all of them though. Some people just like to yell and scream because that's the only way they know how to communicate, due to upbringing, frustration or lack of education. At the end of the day, who knows why they do what they do?