Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Let's talk about 'Waiting for the 8th'

Go HERE to read the Washington Post article by Eli Saslow.

She believed you could be poor without appearing poor, so Raphael Richmond, 41, attached her eyelash extensions, straightened her auburn wig and sprayed her neck with perfume as she reached for another cigarette. "For my nerves," she explained, even though doctors already had written eight prescriptions to help her combat the wears of stress. She blew smoke into the living room and waited until her eldest daughter, Tiara, 22, descended the stairs in new sneakers and a flat-brimmed baseball cap. 
"I look okay?" Tiara asked. 
"Fresh and proper," Raphael said, and then they left to stand in line for boxes of donated food and day-old bread. 
It was Thursday, which meant giveaways at a place called Bread for the City. Fridays were free medical care at the clinic in Southeast Washington. Saturdays were the food pantry at Ambassador Baptist Church. The 1st of each month was a disability check, the 2nd was government cash assistance and the 8th was food stamps. "November FREEBIES," read a flier attached to their fridge, a listing of daily handouts that looked the same as October's freebies, and September's freebies, and the schedule of dependency that had helped sustain Raphael's family for three generations and counting.

Please leave a comment in the post and try to be as honest as possible.  If you aren't comfortable leaving your name try and at least include where you live. I am interested to hear perspectives from people who live within Ward 8 and out of it.

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Anonymous said...

Some thoughts:

* That is an exhausting life.

* There are elements depression and anxiety producing spiral that is really hard to break.

* I wondered if better access to preventative health care could have prevented having to go on disability.

* The lack of father's in the kid's lives really bothered me.

* For the point of view of an economist it was easy to see how many of her seeming irrational choices were actually rational to her. Rational in the economic sense.

* One of the reasons for EBT cards was to stop food stamps from being used as a currency. That clearly didn't work. Although, there is really no way around it and I can't get too worked up about it.

* How can kids model behavior they have never seen? My middle class upbringing didn't provide me with the skills to live that kind of life, but it did provide me with lots of norms around work, budgeting, and an assumption that taking a job would make things work.

* Generational poverty has to be one of the toughest social problems we face. Not just in cities, but every where.

From Brookland

Anonymous said...

I don't really know what the article made me feel, but it wasn't good.

It's a mix between saddness and anger. Sad because government benefits may be decreasing for people, but anger because people have resigned themselves to a lifetime of poverty and taught their kids to live in poverty.

I'm just angry at the cycle of poverty and the viewpoints that keep people in that situation.

Anonymous said...

Just a few thoughts:

If you want tilapia and ground beef, why spend money on 'Huggies' and other juices?

If you are struggling on your own, why feed the neighborhood?

Why not travel across town for the computer? It's free and will take only a small portion of your life.

Why not grocery shop weekly or every two weeks with a budget to match? A different shopping schedule with a budget may help to not feel like one hit the jackpot when you are finally able to shop.

Anonymous said...

Previous comment was from a Congress Heights poster.

Anonymous said...

Response: ..."Waiting for Godot".... Location: "...land of the free...home of the brave...."
I apologize for the terseness. I'm feeling some type of way, right now; it's making me a little inarticulate. --Perhaps, this, itself, is telling? Advocate, please know, I appreciate you posting.

Geo said...

This story, like so many others I've read over the years about inner city poverty takes a single family and chronicles their experience with unemployment and poverty, while the larger story, the story that wouldn't prejudice readers removed from the situation remains untold. Telling a single story is dangerous.

There will no doubt be countless readers that will take away from that story the notion that all SNAP beneficiaries are clad in bright wigs, wear new sneakers and baseball caps, and game the public assistance system. A notion that a lot of readers harbored before even reading the Washington Post's piece on this individual family.

There are hundreds more stories identical to the Richmond family's that play out all over Ward 8 every day. And each have their own individual plots written by a reality of individual circumstances, choices, and opportunities. These stories all have common denominators that glaringly highlight paths to potential solutions that get minimized by individual selective reporting.

Here are four dynamic common denominators that collectively are the crux of the disparity that oppresses many in the Ward 8s of our country.

Common Denominators 1 Ward 8 currently has a 24 percent unemployment rate. No job equals no money equals poverty. A stroll around Ward 8 will confirm there certainly aren't any job opportunities in the community so the unemployed aren't going to find anything close to home. And being relegated to public transportation corals their job search girth to the end of the bus or rail lines that run to the outlying suburbs.

Common Denominator 2 This is a cycle revolving back around from the previous generation of these folks relatives. Yes with each revolving generations some stray hardships get snared in the net of Ward 8's despondent, and destitute, but it's largely from generation to generation that this trend thrives.

Common Denominator 3. No premiums put on formal education. Wards 7 and 8 have always had significantly lower educational attainment levels than the rest of the District as a whole. One of the reasons for this is in the Ward 8s of our country there is the perception among some of the impoverished residents there is no reward for investing in a thorough education. Don't argue with me; argue with the 24% unemployment rate. Yes, people that subscribe to that notion are in essence cutting their own legs off and then complaining they can't walk, but it's hard to debate them standing in the poorest Ward in the city eating ramen noodles for dinner. Limited or no education equals no jobs equals poverty equals a resignation to hopelessness and despair. Hopelessness and despair will fatigue a body and mind into a mere comatose day to day state of barely living.

Common Denominator 4 They're trapped by the very system designed to help them. Putting people in low income or subsidized housing, feeding them, without creating channels to better education and job training opportunities eerily resembles how slaves were trapped and controlled. Whoa, hold your horses and don't get up on your hind legs and start growling, I didn't call anyone a slave now. But do riddle me this. Just how are these folks supposed to gravitate toward better housing and job opportunities without really knowing how to effectively do so? Public Assistance and general job training programs simply throw an aspirin at the symptoms of a bloodletting problem that continues it relentless hemorrhaging of basic human needs.

Again I think we all need to be cautious of marginalizing poverty, unemployment, and insolvent education opportunities to a single story. That makes it to easy to characterize it, wrap it in cheap housing, tie a ribbon of cheap food around it, and leave it among the real issues we force our consciences to shut out.

DaReslnt1 said...

There are so many things that could be said about this article but coming from East New York Brooklyn, and now living in DC and working for social services...........I know first hand that this is the reality for many.

I dealt with a woman who recently had her children removed and opposed to going to retrieve her children she was at a friend's house eating crabs and she joked about it when I spoke to her. All I could do was shake my head.

There was a time when I left social services for about 4 years, because I was pissed that I had to work 2 jobs to get by and here was a client who had 10 children and had never had to work a day in her life. They never have to worry about owing Uncle Sam in April, they never have to worry about where they will get food, or if they will even have time during the week to go grocery shopping. The city gave her food, school supplies every year, clothing, coats......her damn rent was in arrears and she was only paying $25 a month to live in a townhouse in Old Town, Alexandria.

These stories exhaust me but I have just resigned to being thankful that these people exist because they keep me employed

Anonymous said...

12-17-13 @ 1:34 You hit it on the head.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Geo, and I thank you. Your response was my immediate feeling upon reading the article and the way in which it was crafted. To quote the article itself: "It's dangerous." While I could not articulate the why of my visceral reaction, I did feel the need to sidestep the 'bait'. I believe this is an important story, because it speaks to the ongoing plight of many across the nation. However, you have eloquently deepened, clarified, and expanded the dialogue by raising very valid points and considerations. I appreciate your response.

h st ll said...

Yeah, I didn't understand why the 22 y/o couldn't go get the computer either. Nothing else pressing was happening.

The 22 y/o seemed grounded and with a lot of promise. Seems like she had a lot of excuses for not having a job though - no reason she couldn't get one.

Overall, not a hugely negative article.

Anonymous said...

There's a real victim mentality here. The "why us?, poor me" kind of thing. Why would the mom let her child skip school after thansgiving?
Why would she stay inside the house and not volunteer her time somewhere? She has time. And there are HUNDREDS of places she can go and at least try to do something..which might lead her to meeting someone who might be able to give her a job. Same goes for the older kids.
Waiting around for the government to give you something is just - terrible.
I feel like she chose this. Her excuses about working are just..excuses. She had a job and decided life was too hard when she was working, so now she does this. She shouldn't complain about this now - since she chose to do this.

It's really frustrating to see people just give up on life.

h st ll said...

Let me just say DaResInt1 - your comment really resonated with me. Like 100x

I did social work for 7 and a half years. And I loved it - but the emotional and physical abuse (and unrealistic workload expectations) are just so much.

Plus I was physically assaulted - legitimately so - including being attacked in several different manners and having huge weapons pulled on me- its just a lot.

Thank you for giving back to the community DaRes -