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?
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.