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February 27, 2013

ANDERSON: Debunking the myths: Homelessness in our area

(Continued)

With an average rent of $559 per month not including utilities in the area, it is little wonder we have homelessness. A lack of desire to work is there, but only for a little while. People work hard for the most part and the “Peter principal” does apply to our population as well as to the general population (80 percent of the people do 100 percent of the work). 

In 30 years of social work, I have never had anyone ask me to “get me on welfare or do it for me.” The first words I hear are, “Miss Barbara, I need a job and I need a home,” in that order. The myth about lazy homeless people is as exaggerated as the “welfare queen” of the 1980s and 90s.

 

We can’t afford all these social services; we’ll only have to pay more taxes.

Wrong. We don’t have enough services. We need to look at how we prioritize in this country and the emphasis we put on our poorest citizens. We can judge by what we have been given. 

Subsidies that are below 1983 levels with people who number almost 80 million more in population somehow just doesn’t make sense to me. A minimum wage as opposed to a living wage. Many of us find it hard to make it on a middle or median income, yet the poor we expect to survive on $7.25 per hour. Out of that, they have to pay enormous amounts for insurance. Sometimes if they are blessed they still are eligible for Medicaid, but that is rare. 

No assistance in training programs, no childcare subsidies for the majority of working mothers, no assistance for those making enough money to barely be above the poverty level. But we need a strong work force?

The fact is we need services, we need to help people realize their full potential, we need to deal with the real issues and stop playing games politically with the lives of the poor. The gamesmanship politically is appalling. 

We fight to protect the interests of the wealthy but will throw programs serving the poor under the bus. What are we thinking? The increase in burglaries, drug sales and shootings tell me there are people feeling desperate and trapped, for whatever reason. We as a country and a community have to do better, we can do better and we must do better.

— Barbara Anderson is executive director of Haven House Services Inc.

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