I almost re-tweeted this article (linked - please visit and read for yourself). I've learned to be a little careful, though, with that. It's my responsibility to think about what re-tweeting says about my viewpoints- and especially what articles might convey (intentionally or unintentionally) about my view of others.
The article broke my heart in many ways. Women veterans becoming homeless after returning from duty. Women and children incredibly at-risk:
"While the Department of Veterans Affairs reports that overall veteran homeless rates are going down, female rates are going up. In fact, female veterans are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. homeless population and are more at risk than their male counterparts, according to the report."It has always been hard for women with dependent children. The military has not been forward thinking in helping female veterans meet the unique challenge of having children and facing deployment. Punitive, maybe, even. (Is that going too far?)
Help comes in the form of a woman, Jaspen Boothe, the article describes, who is helping women veterans access transitional housing. After facing similar challenges, including cancer, the military referred her to social services.
"They referred her to local social services, which Boothe called probably the most demeaning experience of her life."Oh Goodness.
I wish I could accurately describe how demeaning it IS to access social services. Forms are convoluted. Waiting lines (and times) (even in rural areas) are long. I've met many front desk staff (definitely not all) and social workers who are rude, judgmental and extremely condescending. Applying for social services is a long process in which your intelligence, worth and dignity are continually called into question. You are continually asked, "What did YOU do to get to this point and what are YOU going to do to pull yourself out?"
(Sidenote. Top causes of poverty: illiteracy, health and income. Now. Think about what causes illiteracy, poor health and income. We must, we must, we must, we must be careful to absolutely divorce the notion of poverty from personal effort/laziness. I cannot even begin to describe how much more complicated the causes of poverty are.)
So Boothe has my heart in the palm of her hand, right? And I'm soaking in her story to see how it ends, right? And then this line pops up,
" 'I'm not a welfare mom, I'm a soldier.' "Which came after this quote,
"You're treated basically as a baby's mama or a crack head, or some woman who's made a bunch of bad decisions with her life, and the only resources available were welfare," Boothe said.And the record on the needle scratches and I instantly decide that I'm not re-tweeting this article.
Boothe found herself in the position of needing social services after falling on incredibly hard times. She found that she needed transitional help. Well, glory be -- turns out that the purpose of welfare is to help people transitionally. Turns out that the myth of the welfare mom is rampant and that most people who use cash assistance or food stamps do so .... transitionally. Turns out that Boothe fits the description of somebody who needs the assistance of ...welfare.
So does that make her a welfare mom?
I guess so. Technically, right? And I say that without any judgment or prejudice. We have to start combating that term and the prejudicial attitude it conveys. Boothe served her country (and continues to do so as she works with the VA). I'm so grateful for that. And I'm so very, very sad and disappointed that when she went to ask the country she so unselfishly served for help, the country made her feel demeaned and demoralized.
What's a welfare mom?
I have friends who, as a result of the recent economy, have used the assistance of food stamps. WIC. The cash grant. I had single friends in undergraduate school (when this was still a possibility) who received food stamps to help them eat through the end of the month. I have friends who, in the State of Oregon, which as a provision for this, received $1200 in welfare benefits to help flee domestic violence.
Are there people who abuse the system?
Are there people who are dealing with addiction who receive welfare benefits?
Are there MORE people who use welfare transitionally?
If you research academic journals will you find the last statement to be true?
Does this country have large prejudice and misinformation regarding who receives welfare?
I think so.
I commend Boothe for her work with female veterans and I wish her the best as she moves forward in continuing to act selflessly for the sake of others. I sincerely thank her for her service to this country. May her journey be blessed beyond belief.
And may we all start to examine the attitudes we have to people who receive federal / state assistance.
(I am proud of the "welfare moms" I know. Because sometimes asking for help is infinitely harder than it should be.)