Dignity for the Poor

Should Poverty come with “Perks”? #fb

@MENDPOVERTY posted a picture of the hot meal they served in the main Pacoima building yesterday. Someone commented that it that is how the poor are eating ; he would quit his job.

To be fair, the head of the food department Richard Weinroth used to own his own restaurant and his cooking is yummy. In turn he is teaching cooking to the volunteers in the department as well as bringing in school kids from the neighborhood and teaching them cooking as well. But let’s forget all of that and get down to emotions.

Let’s not be fair. Let’s talk about how you feel.

When you see someone on public cash assistance and you see them drinking a beer, or smoking a cigarette, or getting a tattoo, or drinking a Starbucks: are you mad? Do you feel that they are infringing on the rights that only people who are not on aid should have?

I get irate. I will be honest. I see parents bring their kids to my office wearing Burger King Crowns and wearing name brand clothing. When I ask if they had the clothes donated or where they bought them – I often hear that they shopped at pricey clothing stores in the mall that I don’t dare wander in to and paid a quarter of their cash aid for the month in clothes purchases.

Am I mad that poor people have nice things?

snicker

Am I frustrated that responsible economic choices are not being made?

I am never mad that someone has nice things. I am annoyed that as a population we have made a social contract to assist the poor in surviving poverty: they are given enough financial, medical and food assistance to keep poverty from being lethal and to give them room to pull themselves into a better fiscal situation – but it does not seem to be helping some people. The system is labeling them and crippling them with the Stigma of “Welfare Queens”, “Welfare Moms” and “Deadbeats” . This harms them so badly that people are not asking for help at all because they don’t want to be labeled as worthless.

Poverty is, after all an economic state and not a statement of personal worth.

I want people in poverty to thrive; in fact I count on it professionally. I want to see growth and education and employment and so see people rise from daily struggle to economic security.

I feel betrayed when I see someone pull out the EBT (Welfare checks come on a debit card these days) card and pay full price for anything. If you don’t use coupons with your Food Stamp Funds I want to kidnap you and make you watch episodes of Extreme Couponing with me. I believe a Smart Phone is a necessity for leaving poverty – but I don’t believe you need 2 iPads to go with it.

I have been so poor that you could not measure the desperation I felt when the DPSS office screwed me over and “forgot” to do an update and I had to wait days for food-stamps or the cash aid – meanwhile I had a 3-year-old who needed diapers and I was out of milk. And I worked and I went to school, and I found creepy crappy jobs that I hated and I worked them until I came to sit here in the GAIN office trying desperately not to screw up my cases for other people who are in the same economic spot I was.

Perhaps that is why I feel entitled to tell people on entitlements to make the money last and not think of it as free money. that money is a social contract and I think we can expect people who are receiving it to spend it in the spirit it is issued. It is a tool, not a toy.

No. I don’t ever want to see Purple P’s on the lapels of the poor to identify them as impoverished, and I don’t think they should eat gruel (porridge – oatmeal etc) and stale bread.

I want us to have a responsible system od balanced respect. We could be poor at any time :  the poor are hopefully on their way out of that classification and their tax dollars will fund the hopes and change of others.

So, eat your fancy lunches, and then stick around to learn to grow the ingredients and cook it for yourself.

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4 thoughts on “Dignity for the Poor

  1. In my experience, there is “entitlement” issues out there… people cry to get their rights, while they don’t even think about their responsibilities. I remember a client calling me ans DEMANDING $30 for his needs (that he never elaborate them BTW) and when I refused (FTWN do not give money or has to do with cash, we only provide information), he just plain asked me that what kind of organization we were and he will go to another agency and I can erase his name as he will never come back… Hmmmmmmm, interesting! Never mind some other experiences of people calling to find info as how to get their cable bill (with premium channels, of course) and when we say we don’t provide that kind of info, I hear all the swearing you can imagine.

    Entitlement problems are everywhere, so the critics (that never had a problem in their lives) saying “If that is how the poor are eating ; he would quit his job.” (from the above original post), I will say… GO AHEAD, QUIT YOUR JOB AND LIVE IN THE BUSHES”, no matter who it is, if that person needs, they are entitled to a respectable, clean, and “as best they can do” meal and place to eat, we can’t ask for much sometimes, but if there is a way to get the best.. be thankful both sides: One side be thankful to receive all that that is coming with dignity and help (and that help is always given to help people to GET BACK ON TRACK, not to criticize or complaint) and the other side to be thankful that they don’t need it! and understand that Those Who Need it are having that kind of help to get back on track and be productive again.

    For the record, I was a client of MEND about 2 years ago, I NEEDED IT BADLY, I came back, and ready to help Those Who Need, specially those who want to come back, I learned a lot, that kind of knowledge that will never go away, and keep learning, specially from Homeless in LA…

    Great Job as usual!!!

      1. I talked about it with my 10 and 12 year old boys. They both shared sympathy for those who needed help, and could understand why someone would get upset at the misuse of funds provided, but couldn’t get past the question of whether the people who were in this awful position of having no money knew how to get out of it. They both reflected that if they were poor and had no skills, but had children to feed they would feel very overwhelmed, and not know how to fix the situation.
        I encouraged them to think about it, and talk about it with each other and their Mom and I and see if they could come up with some solutions, because I didn’t have any great answers for them that wouldn’t take both a lot of time and effort. It did lead into a great segue about staying in school and learning everything they could, however.

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