Sometimes Welfare is Needed, Not Wanted

Applying for food stamps is ‘dehumanizing experience’

By Kerri Bishop Martin, Guest Author

Editor’s note: A few months ago, the Campfire Blog cited a Rasmussen survey in which 71 percent of respondents said too many Americans rely on welfare programs. The headline asked:  If you have a couple high-def TVs and collect food stamps, do you live in poverty? Here is a reply from a conservative woman who is working to provide a good life for her five boys–something well worth reading and passing on to your friends.

Almost three years ago I became pregnant with our fifth (surprise!) little boy. Five months into that pregnancy, my husband suddenly walked out on our marriage, and within a week our lives were flipped upside down. I was a stay-at-home mom with an expired teaching license and no real job. I may not be your “typical” welfare recipient, but I would like to make some comments about receiving government aid.

Over the past 2+ years, I have paid tens of thousands of dollars for a divorce I never wanted. Our house was foreclosed upon, and the challenge of finding housing for a single, unemployed mother of five boys is unimaginable. I have court papers saying I should get x amount but do not actually receive it. Because our case is pending in New York Supreme Court, “the system” will not enforce orders.

My ex-husband makes a six-figure salary so we do have two televisions, a laptop, and internet access. He occasionally buys the kids iPods, good quality sneakers, etc., but he is not the person I thought I knew and there are times when we get very little. There was an eight-month stretch where I received about $9,000 in total support. Fighting to get support is time consuming and costly and many women and children cannot do so and they deserve better.

There was one point during that eight month stretch when, in total desperation, I did apply for food stamps–a horrible and dehumanizing experience. I was pronounced ineligible because my paperwork said we should be receiving x amount although in reality we were well below income guidelines.

My grandmother was an immigrant to the U.S. and I love our immigrants. I studied in Mexico and my heart breaks for the good people there who want a better life for their families–just as good people in Darfur, North Korea, and a multitude of other nations want, but as I sat in those offices and was the only one who spoke English as my first language, I could not help but wonder how I could be “undocumented,” as one WIC worker recently called me after looking through my paperwork and denying assistance.

Daycare costs more than I can make and the thought of putting my now two year old and two elementary school aged children in state sponsored daycare so that I can make a pittance does not seem right to me either.

Please do not mistake me for lazy. As a Conservative and a Christian, I am raising strong, faith-filled, wonderful boys who value God, family, and country. If I have to accept help, I would prefer to do it in the form of food than to have the government tell me who will watch my children and teach my sons their values. I am not sure if this is the right thing to do or not and every time I need to ask for food, my pride takes a major blow and I wonder if I should take the daycare assistance and work instead.

I am attempting to start my own business working off hours and online (Hence the reason for luxuries like internet, cable, etc.) but progress is slow and I am constantly amazed at the hurdles put up for small businesses. I don’t wonder at the hopelessness of those on public assistance or wonder why they stay there. A better life seems so unrealistic while sitting in those offices or daring to look over paperwork required to try something out of the box. Public assistance sucks the life right out of a person. Sometimes the only relief is in those empty promises offered through the luxuries you mentioned. I am not condoning that at all, just wondering how we can make a difference.

My boys and I live in a very small town and everyone knows our story which has its good and bad points. My government actually ended up providing no help, but I thank God for our local churches, schools, neighbors, friends, and family who provided food and heat and Christmas for my boys, and I urge everyone on Fosterfriess to please reach out to others, really get to know them, and then lend a helping hand even if they seem to have everything in place.

I am so much more blessed than most and know my situation is painful but temporary. We are strong because of our faith in God, mankind, and our great nation, and I feel for those who do not have the gifts I have.

I would also like to add to those with the ability to give, please do so joyfully not judgingly, and to those in need of assistance, swallow your pride and go to the local churches and private agencies. There they will know your name which can make it more difficult in some ways, but there you are human again and can receive more than false promises and empty dreams. The right agency offers material support and much more importantly, faith, hope, love, and fellowship for you as a neighbor worthy of that and more.

You never know what others are going through or when you also may need a lift.

Read the post about the Rasmussen survey here (1/4 page/193 words).