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The Frustration of Government Assistance

The Frustration of Government Assistance March 11, 2016

Sometimes it has felt as if there is a dark cloud over us that isn't going away.
Sometimes it has felt as if there is a dark cloud over us that isn’t going away.

I am typing this after fighting with the food-stamp office for the last 3 1/2 hours. Currently I am sitting at my computer trying to get my income tax paperwork to them for the 15th time.

I have mentioned before that I grew up poor. I come from a long line of generational poverty and I dropped out of school in the 10th grade. Every bit of education that I do have comes from life and being Catholic. A lot of people that I know are living below the poverty line in the ghetto. I am living below the poverty line in the suburbs. I am not sure which one is harder, at least in the ghetto we are all on the same page. In the burbs, I feel like I am drowning and my children feel like they are getting the short end of the stick in life. They have to work and don’t have cars while their friends get money from their parents and drive BMWs. I know a lot of people who go to my parish that have swimming pools in their backyards. Not the kind you buy at Wal-mart, but real in the ground swimming pools. And it’s considered “normal”. I see these people on Facebook talk about how “hard life is” and I want to scream. You have a freakin’ pool in your back yard, make some margaritas and go for a swim, that should help you out a little.

My husband and I were doing very well for ourselves and we were rich, at least for us it was rich. Then it all crumbled and fast. There are many reasons for that, some of it was our fault. A lot of it was just how the perfect storm hit us all at once and we couldn’t really do much except bunker down and try to make it.

It was the help of friends (some of those with swimming pools, so I hope I didn’t offend ya’ll), readers and fellow Catholic bloggers that helped us get through it and while things still aren’t stable, they are much better than a year ago so we are happy about the progress. Our adult children have made me so proud. They work, take care of themselves and offer us help when we need it. We just used one of their cars for a few days while both of our vehicles were in the shop this past week.

The issue that I see when the subject of Government run social programs comes up is seeing people talk about these programs as if they are the end all be all way to help the poor or the opposite idea: people who think that the poor are just lazy and these programs only enable them to stay poor. Both sides are wrong.

It sucks to apply for food stamps. Don’t believe me? Then you are welcome to come over and help me do it. You can go to my appointment with me and see how I am treated. You can see all the paperwork that it takes to apply so that the social worker can look at every single piece of paper just looking for any reason why you aren’t qualified for assistance. You wanna know why people lie? Because it is easier than telling the truth. I can’t lie because I’m Catholic and the last thing I need is to sit in the confessional over a food stamp application. I have enough to confess as it is. But I can say from experience that I get why people lie. We have been denied for food stamps for the last year. I can only apply every 3 months, and I do and we get denied. First because we had too many assets even though the IRS has a lien on all of it. So, as 2015 went on we lost a lot of those assets and sold a few. Our trucks got repossessed and sold off so I applied again. We were denied again because our 2014 income taxes showed that we made too much money, never mind that we were now in 2015 and things had drastically changed. Then I applied again and we were denied because we have more money coming in than is going out. You wanna know how much? $300 a month. That’s all we had after paying bills but it was enough to mean that we didn’t need assistance. That is $300 for a family of 5 in food for an entire month.

Now, I am applying again and I have sent them everything they ask for and then they ask for more. Bank statements, proof that our house is in foreclosure, proof that our bills are late but they aren’t so then the worker says “looks like ya’ll are doing better than last time”….. the list goes on and on. I just want help to buy my kids food. It’s Texas, we can’t even buy anything BUT food on the Lonestar card. So it’s not like we can take those stamps and buy anything except food.

It is a horrible invasive, humiliating, and frustrating process.

If you really want to help the poor people around you, do not rely on your taxes to do it. Find a family that needs help and help them directly. Don’t get tired of helping them or finding another family when the one you helped gets on their feet. Stop voting for people who want to raise taxes because it feels like that is enough, because it isn’t. If it is possible, help those in need because trust me, it will help them out much more than applying for assistance does.

I have lost an entire day wrestling with this application and that is fine because I can afford to lose that day, I am just a housewife and blogger. I have a lot of things that make this process much easier for me than it was before. We have computers, internet and a fax machine. There are plenty of people who do not have any of these things. (which is why I want to live in a house in the low income part of town and offer internet, computers and fax machines to people  who don’t have them to help them apply for assistance. That is what my Red Door Foundation dream is all about.)

There are a lot of people who have helped me and my family. I have a platform to ask for that help. I also have people who pay me for freelance work and I just signed a contract to publish my book. Things are getting better for me, but that is in large part because of the help of people giving us gift cards, paying our light bill directly, buying us groceries, hiring my husband to kill their bugs, and all the prayers. God always throws an attic full of rats in my husband’s lap at the right time.

My husband is my hero, I would have given up a long time ago if it wasn’t for him constantly getting out of bed and refusing to lay down and die. He inspires me every day. If it weren’t for all these people directly helping me, I don’t know where I would be.

I am not saying to abolish social welfare programs either and I’m not talking about healthcare, which is a whole other beast, but I am saying that the best way to help someone you love or see struggling is to do it directly. Not only does the money go further but it also encourages that person to keep going. Applying for assistance mostly encourages me to give up on life.

I am pretty sure that is how most poor people feel about applying for any kind of Government assistance. It is a lot to deal with when you are stressed, broke, hungry and overwhelmed by life. It is not easy to be poor in this country. Yes, we have a lot going for us but when you are broke as hell that only makes things more difficult. It’s like trying to run a marathon that you are expected to win but you have a broken leg.

Helping people directly also helps to remember the dignity of the human person instead of just seeing an “issue”, you can see a human family that is trying to make it through life. It’s the Catholic thing to do. It is a both/and conversation. We need social programs and we need to help families directly when we can.

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