Some voices from real people in need

“I work. I have always worked, but need to find another job where the hours are more predictable, so I can be there for my kids, attend school events, help them with their homework.” – a single homeless mother, now housed with a temporary rent-subsidy.

“They have cut my hours at work, so I need to find a second job, so that I can feed my kids and pay rent.” – a single homeless mother, now housed with a temporary rent-subsidy.

“Two professionals helping me were talking about me, in front of me, as if I could not understand them. Since I did not know middle class English, people would not ask for my opinion. I grew up a migrant worker picking crops. I did not know I did not speak middle class English.” – a former homeless person, who is now a Ph.D. helping people in need.

“People who have never lived in poverty, do not know what it is like to have to decide on whether to eat or pay rent. They say why don’t you get a job? I have a job. I have more than one and I work hard.” – a homeless father, now housed with a temporary rent-subsidy.

“My husband is no longer a part of the picture. We are on our own doing the best we can, but it is hard with only person working.” – a domestic violence victim and homeless mother, now housed with a temporary rent-subsidy.

“I never thought it could happen to us. We both have college degrees, but when my wife was also laid off, we had to come here and get help. We did not know how.” – a father of a homeless family who is now housed with a temporary rent-subsidy.

“When your poor, you feel like you do not belong. How do you think a kid feels when she goes to school on picture day and her envelope is empty? Or, at the book fair, when the teacher compliments the person in front of her on the book they chose and skips over her.” – a former homeless person who is now a Ph.D. helping people in need.

“I made a bad decision when I was a teenager and now have a criminal record. Can you help me get considered for this job? I just need an opportunity to tell my story.” – a single homeless mother now in housing with a temporary rent-subsidy.

“I am embarrassed that I cannot keep a roof over my kids’ heads. They say they understand, but it is not fair that they have to.” – a single homeless father living out of his van with his two kids.

“We did not know this until later, but our daughter was volunteering at a food bank helping people in need. Mind you, we live in a tent in a homeless village, but she was volunteering to help others after school.” – a homeless family, who is now housed with a temporary rent subsidy.

We need to walk in other people’s shoes to understand why they are in poverty. It is not laziness, as the homeless people I see work their fannies off.  It is not due to lack of virtue, as the people I see are more devout than others as their faith is all they have. It is mostly not due to substance abuse, as the homeless have no greater degree of substance abuse than the general population. Poverty is the lack of money. This lens is critical. Let’s understand this and help people climb ladders to self-sufficiency.

18 thoughts on “Some voices from real people in need

  1. I get so disgusted, so angry, with the nincompoops in politics who say, “Just get a job.” These people are not lazy, they are not uncaring. The corporations now are splitting up jobs into all part time work, so they don’t have to pay benefits, and don’t have to pay full time wages. These are the corporate “leaders” who need our tax cuts so they can trickle down money to others. But as Robert Reich recently said, “Its not trickle down, its table scraps.”

    Great piece, and lets hope the message continues to get out there.

    • Thanks Barney. My impetus for this was seeing a letter to the editor that noted the President was recommending increased tax credits for two working parent families. The person noted that the President should be providing an increased tax credit for a stay at home parent. The answer is the significant majority of two parent families do not have the luxury of not having a parent work, especially with over 2/3 living pay check to pay check. This is someone not understanding the plights of those without money.

      Robert Reich is speaking very clearly on these problems if people would listen to him.

    • Businesses large and small have for years been doing things to get out of paying benefits. For example hiring people to work 39.5 hours to avoid them being classified as “full time”; or “hiring” people but putting them on the books as independent contractors to avoid paying not only benefits but taxes.

      With the change in how many hours determined a full time employee for health insurance employers cut hours even further. That made it more noticeable. When certain CEO’s released news statements about having to do that because of the ACA it pushed a common practice into the spot light.

      It all comes down to greed.

      • Roseylinn, good comments. The trend toward part-time employees was in existence well before ACA. One of the key reasons, ACA compliance has impacted many retailers and restaurant employers, is the economic exploitation of its workers. Many retailers had much less than 50% of their employees who signed up for the healthcare plans prior to ACA. One discount retailer had less than 20% of its employees covered. Then, there is the IC (Independent Contractor) issue, which has been used for long while. As you note, the employer gets out of its share of the 7.65% FICA tax rate and can cut back hours even more easily. These are reasons why the ACA is needed and why it is actually helping the middle class and above poverty lower class (and those in poverty in now 28 states). Our GOP friends talk about helping the middle class – repealing the ACA for the 56th time is “bass ackwards.” Sorry for the diatribe. BTG

      • Greed is behind whats going on with labor these days. Why do they do it? Because they can. Thanks for the comment

      • Speaking of greed, I noticed the natural gas and oil commercials are back. I had missed the lovely and earnest spokeswoman telling us how safe fracking is. This one plays on our American heartstrings of we are number one. Obama gets grief for truthfully highlighting our imperfections yesterday in a speech and these guys make money off stretching and ignoring the truth. Jingoism sells. It always has. It also makes the peddlers richer.

    • Raye, you reminded me of the excerpt from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s book about her meeting with a group of Citibank executives. When she noted that credit consolidators actually preyed on the customers they were trying to help and that the best thing the customers could do is pay down debt and not borrow more, she was thanked and sent on her way. The meeting leader noted that is how we make money. But, but….

      Thanks, BTG

    • Agreed. The model in the agency of which I am on the board helps people climb a ladder, but they have to climb it. We offer social work mentoring with rental subsidy based on their ability to pay, with other supportive services around education, savings, getting a better car loan and job networking, coaching. But, we try not to do for them what they can do for themselves. Our numbers tell us this is lets them better achieve and sustain housing.

  2. Note to Readers: I heard a very interesting, but not too surprising data point from a person who runs an agency to help chronic homeless men. They opened up a new supportive apartment complex to house about 90 men who would be on the streets due to their multiple issues. After the first year, they measured the cost of health care of these ninety men and compared it to the cost of health care the year before. The medical and hospital costs the year before were $2.5 million and the year they were sheltered were only $800,000, a reduction of $1.7 million. Since they were housed, better fed, sleeping more and less stressed, they were able to avoid using the health care system as much. This cost savings is realized by the hospital system who is largely funded by the county. Better health outcomes, better health cost.

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