Saturday, September 22, 2007

Blessed are the poor...

Someone I know is stone cold broke due to circumstance beyond her control. I'm not just talking about not having money for cigarettes or gas. I'm talking about bottom of the barrel broke. No money for milk and bread. Zero dollars in her bank account. Electricity in only one half of her apartment is working. No job. No one to watch the kids so she can go to work. She lives far away in another state.

Yesterday, she pocketed her pride and went to social services in her state to apply for assistance. She filled out the application for emergency assistance and then she sat there all day long waiting to meet with a counselor. At the end of the day, they told her they were not going to see any more people. She would have to come back today. She wonders why the paperwork says that by law someone must assist her the same day she submits the paperwork. When she questioned the woman at the desk, the woman told her that's not the way things work in that office. Hmmm.

So today she showed up at eight o'clock even though the doors don't open until nine. There was already a line of people outside. She was there all day long again. This time she came home with $300 in food stamps. She's grateful for the little bit of help she received, but the reality is that food stamps can not be used for toilet paper, shampoo, laundry soap, or the million other non-food necessities that make our life bearable.

She must go back on Monday to see another counselor. This counselor may--or may not--decide to help pay her rent. If they don't pay her rent and she is evicted, by law they must put her and her daughters in a hotel (and pay for it), arrange for a moving van and storage for her belongings (and pay for it) and pay two months security deposit for a new apartment. It seems to me that would be a no-brainer. Pay the rent. But small minded, over-whelmed social workers don't see it that way. It's not their emergency.

It makes me angry that I don't dare help her. But this is the way things work. If I give her one dime, then the state says that she has an income and they don't help her. If she leaves her daughter's birthday money in the savings account--a whopping $20--then she has income and doesn't qualify for help. Who makes up these rules? What kind of country do we live in that we would allow our women and children to be homeless?

This young woman is bright, educated, and has job skills. She will probably be able to get a job within weeks. But she has a four year old. And social services very cheerfully explained that they would be able to help her with child care expenses just as soon as she's worked for four weeks. What would they like her to do with her child in the meantime? When she asked that, the woman said, "Well, honey, that's not my problem."

In the Bible a rich man asked Jesus what he must do to go to heaven. Jesus told him to sell all his goods and give the money to the poor. The poor are always with us. Some because they refuse to work, but most because of circumstances far beyond their control. Companies close or move away. Spouses go to jail. Hurricanes wipe out cities and neighborhoods. Tornadoes flatten cities. After the initial emergency, we forget or look away because there too, but for the grace of God, we will be.

The next time you see or know that someone is in need don't look away. Don't mouth platitudes like "If you need anything let me know." Instead, show up with food. Offer to pay a bill. Buy gas. Keep the kids for a couple of hours. Remember that next week, that could be you.


Yesterday Amarinda left me with a hamster attack to deal with...

“There has not been a hamster attack in years,” Mortie assured her.

“I don’t know Mortie, they look kind of pissed off.” Bambi’s eyes widened at the sound all humans feared. “They’re humming.”

“Bloody hell! They only hum before they attack.” Mortie and the rest of the film cast and crew backed away quickly from them.

Bambi was directly in front of the hamsters. “Help me Mortie.”

“I need bananas to do that and…oh god no! Run Bambi!”

And I think I dealt with it very neatly--don't you?

Mortie and the crew scrambled for high ground as the hamsters rushed Bambi. A puff of purple smoke enveloped Bambi leaving the hamsters to mill around aimlessly. Sam swept them up into the purple box with a single swipe. “There now,” he declared. “This is some fine mess.”

Bambi leaned against Sam’s chest and howled. “Why me?”

“Who turned them into hamsters?” he asked sternly.

“I did,” she admitted with a sniff. “It was just a part. I did it because it was in the script.”

Sam set the box down at his feet and hauled out his notebook and blue pen. “Right. We’ll just make a few changes here. Mortie, hand over the script.”

Mortie tiptoed over to Sam and handed him the script.

Sam flipped hurriedly through the pages, crossing out lines with his blue pen and scribbling notes in the margin. After a few minutes, he slapped the script shut and handed it back to Mortie. “There now. That ought to fix things all right and tight. Now, I’ll just take these beasties back where they belong.” He picked up the box and in another puff of purple smoke he was gone, taking the hamsters with him.

“Where did he go?” Bambi asked in wonder.

“Who cares? Look what that guy did to the script! Where am I going to get someone to play the parts of Alex, Ester, and Pansy? Say, Bambi… how would you like to play the part of the tooth fairy? Or maybe the pet rock, Sidney?”

Check out Kelly's words of wisdom at and Amarinda's take on that Aussie favorite, Vegemite, at and then have a wonderful weekend.


  1. What is happening to your friend is wrong. However having working in a government welfare office, I know it's often the case. While there are those like your friend who are in genuine need there are others who try and scam the system and ruin it for everyone else. And let's face it there are government officers in each contry who don't care and are just 'doing their job' and they have a roof over there head so you are just a number, a procedure,a protocol for them to rubber stamp. You're right Anny we seem to care less and less about others and I do not see that changing any time soon. We sometimes suck badly as human beings.

  2. Anny, suggest to your friend that she see if the local Council of Churches has any assistance programs. Here, they have a food pantry, and will assist with rent, utility payments, etc.

    It's an interdenominational group. They won't make her sign a faith statement or preach to her or anything, but will help out where they can, offer understanding counseling, and might be able to offer a solution for the child care dilemma.

  3. Having been on welfare once, I understand the hardship. If you have ever sat in an office waiting with your paperwork, it is stunning to see the number of young girls chatting about their social circle of friends they all share. They know how to beat the system and all their friends are in with them. Those of us who never thought we'd be in the position and have to suck up our pride to ask for help, don't know where to begin. And there are no manuals.

    Most states will offer health and dental to the kids. That's a help. Food stamps though are nearly impossible to obtain. And now that your friend has the first 300, it will become even more difficult to prove she needs it again. This is the grace period of reviewing her file. The 300 doesn't commit the office to continuing help.

  4. It is a sad fact there are so many 'working poor' who make just over the limit for food stamps and other assistance. If one's outgoing bills (rent/mortage, utlities, medical, auto, etc) consume one's entire paycheck, leaving little or no money for food, basic living, or clothing emergencies (diapers, shoes, TP, toothpaste, etc), there should be a special program that allows people to gain some kind of assistance.

    It floored me when we had been married for just over a year; barely scraping by, and hubby went to see about food stamps. He was told our file would be 'expidited' and to come back the next morning. Well, an hour before the appointment, he got the call to go to work. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a 4-hour job, but as he 'missed his appointment', we would have had to re-file. That very day, Divine Guidance stepped in as a form of a check from my dad, with a note saying 'an early Christmas present'. I took that check, cashed it, and went to Aldi's, stocking up on enough canned goods, paper products, and frozen ground turkey to last us until tax time. We were lucky; some people aren't so fortunate.

    And yes, there are those who blatently exploiit it, or know how to work around it

  5. Thank you for your assistance, Elissa. That is a new avenue for her to try.

    Kelly and Molly, my cousin lives in Indiana. Her daughter was in a similar situation with three small children. Under the new Welfare to Work guidelines in Indiana, no assistance, including food stamps, is offered unless the applicant is working a minimum of 30 hours per week. Period. So who watches the children while Mom works? "Not our problem. Come back when you have a job."

  6. Exactly what I'mg oing through. H blasted me for not finding a job, but who did he expect me to leave the toddler with, the dogs?

    I am in the process of trying to finish my BSW online, if at all possible. And even with my current ASW, I still stand a good chance at getting hired by Head Start or Healthy Families...and that's only if I can work in the mornings while the toddler's in school, or full-time if and when hubby is laid off for the winter. $400 a week on a family of 5 doesn't go very far...and we have a kid heading for college in 3 years:)