…[E]mergency food stamps, she was told, are not for imminent emergencies; they’re for emergencies already in progress. You can’t get them if you can make it through the next week – you have to be down to the last few meals you can afford.
“The money’s for my phone, it’s for gas, it’s for my bills,” Adkins said.
“Why are you in a crisis,” the woman asked, “when you have a phone bill?”
“I need the phone so I can get a job. You can’t look for a job without a phone.”
“Why do you have bills?” the woman asked. “I thought you didn’t have a place to live.”
“I live in my van,” Adkins said. “I have insurance.”
“You have a 2007 van,” the woman said. “I think you need to sell that.”
“Please, I need a break,” Adkins said. “I need some help. I need to take a shower.”
“Why didn’t you have a shower?”
“I live in a van.”
The woman told Adkins to come back when she really needed help.
“Most of the social-service systems in the United States function not to help people…get back to where they were, to a point of productive stability, but simply to keep them from starving – or, more often, to merely reduce the chances that they will starve. Millions of middle-class Americans are now receiving unemployment benefits, and many find themselves compelled by the meagerness of the assistance to shun opportunity and forgo productivity in favor of a ceaseless focus on daily survival. The system’s incoherence and contempt for its dependents fluoresce brilliantly in the wake of a historic event like the Great Recession. When floodwaters cover our homes, we expect that FEMA workers with emergency checks and blankets will find us. There is no moral or substantive difference between a hundred-year flood and the near-destruction of the global financial system by speculators immune from consequence. But if you and your spouse both lose your jobs and assets because of an unprecedented economic cataclysm having nothing to do with you, you quickly discover that your society expects you and your children to live malnourished on the streets indefinitely. That kind of truth, says Nancy Kapp, ‘really screws with people’s heads.’”
I’ve known a few long term caseworkers that will tell people how to game the system (fuck you if you want to claim that’s fraud by the way, because the rules & regs are often ridiculous & harmful to people who need help & caseworkers know that), & I see why they do it. But it’s ridiculous that they have to do it in order to help people. Especially when you consider how many foreclosed properties wind up derelict. Why not let people be housed in them? Why make access to food & health care so difficult? America’s hatred of poor people scares the hell out of me.
And then you add in how many foreclosures amount to theft by deception by the banks. I’m not saying that people who lost their houses “fairly” deserve less protection and support, but… we don’t have a system in place that would rather see a bank take a loss on a transaction than allow them to make a dishonest gain. But that’s the way the poor are treated: better that everyone suffers than someone gets something they’re not “entitled” to.
The right of corporations to make a profit on their investments is absolute and sacred, even when it comes at the expense of our lives. The right of people to benefits we collectively pay for is an “entitlement” that must be strictly controlled lest we take undue advantage of it.