Editorials and Comment

 By Brian Davis

             So the sky did not fall on October 1.  Many families disappeared from welfare system, but there was not rioting in the street.  We did not have neat, media-friendly starvation on Monday the 2nd of October.  We did not have 1,700 landlords evict the families that lost welfare on that date.  There was a great deal of attention directed at the October 1 date, but in the end it was all hype.  We were all focused on this one date while poverty quietly became more of a permanent condition.

            The reality is that there is added misery in our community. The number of children living in unstable housing has increased, as has the number of kids not receiving food stamps.  The poverty within some of our families is more severe.  The number of children in foster care/adoption system has dramatically increased over the last three years.  Delinquency has also increased.  We are told that the economy is better, but for many members of our community we are not seeing the fruits of a better economy.  It is difficult to say how much welfare reform has contributed to this level of instability within our community.  We need to know if welfare reform has hurt our children.

            The short terms of service of our elected officials and the changing political winds many time force governments into huge changes without the proper forethought.  We make historic changes without having the proper supports in place.  For example, we closed the mental health institutions, which certainly needed reform, but we never did put the resources into care in the community for mentally ill people.  HUD is reforming the housing industry by encouraging de-concentrating ghettos.  Unfortunately, the replacement housing is not in place, which has led to a housing crisis in many urban and rural cities.  Now, we have reformed the welfare system.  We do not have universal health coverage in place.  We do not have a mandatory livable wage or family friendly wage to our working age populations.  Secondary education is not readily available to very low-income individuals so that they can get a job that pays a decent salary.

            Everyone is trying to set up a plan for families.  Self-sufficiency coaches, child safety review social workers, and workforce job coaches are all developing plans.  Our low-income families need more money and fewer plans.  Our families need the tools to get out of poverty and not all these stopgap measures.  We have set up an obscene system where social workers are paid to track down and scold women for being poor.  We have directed our low-income families to send their kids to be taken care of by other low-income women while they go to a very low wage job and we call that progress.

            Everyone is pushing families to self-sufficiency which is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the poor.  Self-sufficiency without universal health care, mandatory living wages, and housing as a right is a myth.  There is nothing that we can do on the local level to move a family living in poverty toward “self sufficiency” until the country moves toward economic justice. And yet we continue to punish people for being poor.  How arrogant of a society have we become in that we begrudged a women for taking $370 per month to raise her kids when we have handicapped her with scarce housing, slave wage jobs, and rising medical costs?

            Where do we go from here?  If I were the Commissioner I would mover to have Cuyahoga County secede from Ohio.  The state laws are hurting our populations and we need to make a statement that we would be better off as our own state.  The state officials do not understand our population and we need to make a statement that we would be better off as our own state. The state officials do not understand our population, and they are romantically attached to this myth of self-sufficiency.  Since secession from the state is not going to happen, we need to organize.  We need to push our own poor people’s platform.  We want to continue to meet to discuss how we can get our agenda to the broader community.  And we need to stay informed.  Most of all, when you hear the self -sufficiency code word, remember that the only people truly self sufficient in this world are dead people who do not rely on anyone else to remain dead.

 Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine issue 45 January 2001 Cleveland Ohio