tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-21429470068075777102016-05-20T15:52:11.090-04:00Passion for the PossibleIdeas for those determined to make the world a better placeTracy Moaverohttp://www.blogger.com/profile/08280055712515863977noreply@blogger.comBlogger2125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-2142947006807577710.post-31236359382011031152013-12-24T20:45:00.002-05:002013-12-24T20:50:19.092-05:00Some kids want lots of toys for Christmas, but not these children<div><span style="font-family: inherit;">When I lived in Washington, DC I volunteered at a shelter for homeless families, <a href="http://www.passionforthepossible.org/2010_09_01_archive.html?widgetType=BlogArchive&widgetId=BlogArchive2&action=toggle&dir=open&toggle=MONTHLY-1362114000000&toggleopen=MONTHLY-1283313600000" target="_blank">Community of Hope</a>. On Wednesday evenings I would join other childcare volunteers in watching a group of children, ages 3-13, while their parents were in a meeting. The shelter was an apartment building, which allowed families to be together and be safe after coming from an emergency shelter that housed two families to a room.&nbsp;</span><br /><span style="font-family: inherit;"><br /></span></div><div><span style="font-family: inherit;">Some parents had lost jobs. Others were working but could no longer afford the sky high rents in Washington, DC. Some were getting clean and sober after abusing drugs or alcohol. Others had illnesses. <a href="http://www.passionforthepossible.org/2009_12_01_archive.html?widgetType=BlogArchive&widgetId=BlogArchive2&action=toggle&dir=close&toggle=YEARLY-1230786000000&toggleopen=MONTHLY-1259643600000" target="_blank">One recent resident had to stop working because of heart problems.</a>&nbsp;(She just got the news that she's getting a new heart.)&nbsp;</span><br /><span style="font-family: inherit;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: inherit;">The kids had been through so much, from moving around to relatives' homes for short stays or living out of cars. Some had seen family possessions - including their toys - strewn on the curb after an eviction. Some of them knew way too much about drugs or what someone looks like on them. Others had lived with violence.&nbsp;</span><br /><span style="font-family: inherit;"><br /></span><span style="font-family: inherit;">When people assume that poor children dream of piles of toys, I think about how n</span><span style="font-family: inherit;">ot once in three years did I hear children talk about</span><span style="font-family: inherit;">&nbsp;</span><i style="font-family: inherit;">stuff&nbsp;</i><span style="font-family: inherit;">they wanted.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: inherit;">When generous donors sponsored families at the shelter at Christmastime, the children were asked what they might like to get. I'll always remember some of those wishes:&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: inherit;"><b>Two eleven year old girls wanted dolls.&nbsp;</b></span><b><span style="font-family: inherit;">One little boy wanted a rubber duck.&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: inherit;">Another little boy just wanted something nice for his mommy.</span></b></div><div><br /></div><div><span style="font-family: inherit;">You know who has long lists of toys they want for Christmas? Kids who have any hope of getting them. And some of their parents accuse the poor of being greedy "takers." I want them to meet children like my little friends, kids who just want everything to be ok. And then they can meet their parents, who want that even more.&nbsp;</span></div>Tracy Moaverohttp://www.blogger.com/profile/08280055712515863977noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-2142947006807577710.post-393356717675387492009-10-29T13:03:00.004-04:002010-05-08T01:24:26.802-04:00Falling Down the Economic Ladder"We can really do something with kids like you."<br /><br />That's what a YMCA staffperson told my teenaged brother. My brother, sister and I were working at the Y through a summer jobs program for low income youth. It's hard to describe how ridiculous this statement was. Not only did we apparently need fixing, but the person saying so was a heavily made up, 50-something aerobics instructor who seemed convinced that dressing 25 made her so.<br /><br />Such was our new life. A few years earlier, we didn't qualify as "low income." My parents were still married, and our family of five did fine on my dad's income from the kind of blue collar, union job that's hard to find these days. But my mother needed to leave my father after years of him being violent. She'd stayed longer than she wanted to, as she didn't know how she was going to support us. She took the plunge and started cleaning houses and offices six days a week – all with a bad back and no health insurance or paid time off. No matter how hard she worked, it was never enough, even with a modest house payment. So once our home became a safe place, it was one we barely could hold onto. <br /><br />We cut back on every conceivable expense, then got food stamps, help from the Heat Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) and occasional grocery donations from church.&nbsp;We hated every moment of it, feeling ashamed of needing help, but we had no choice. <br /><br />Yet for this aerobics instructor, and many people like her, we were broke because we were doing something wrong.<br /><br />The Job Training Partnership Act program reached the same conclusion. My brother, sister and I spent four summers in JTPA jobs. Once a summer all participants had to go to a training, usually including "humorous" skits, telling us to show up for work, be on time, dress appropriately and work hard. I can't argue with the messages, and some kids in our program needed to hear them. But not all of us did, and we had a site supervisor to handle problems on a case-by-case basis. Instead, I got to sit through skits that left me feeling humiliated.<br /><br />No one questioned my work ethic until we escaped family violence. What a weird tradeoff. <br /><br />I've long since learned how typical that scenario is. Many people love that old trope about teaching a man to fish, instead of giving him fish. But not enough people ask if his fishing skills are the problem.<br /><br />An emergency rental assistance program in Washington, DC requires recipients to come in for trainings in budgeting. That could be helpful, but again, it depends. Spending yourself into a hole is one thing. Being behind on rent from a long illness is quite another.<br /><br />A local family shelter found that a handful of residents didn't know how to clean their apartments, so all residents got trained in it. I kept wondering what that felt like for those who didn't need it. <br /><br />Ironically, well-intended training programs can be a burden, especially for the working poor. Accessing benefits often means missing work to spend countless hours in waiting rooms. Add some trainings, and you may be missing even more work and wages.<br /><br />I realize that poverty is far from simple, and that personal responsibility can play a role, as can a changing job market which demands new skills. But still, sometimes people get sick, get laid off or lose a spouse. So why do we treat all people who need help as if they have the same needs? And how much money are we wasting this way? When do people need skills training, and when do they just need money to get them through a crisis? How much are training programs driven by need and how much by the deep seated American belief that poverty means you just aren't trying hard enough?<br /><br />I can already hear the criticism that if you're poor and get help, that you have no right to complain about anything. Well, let me put it this way. Conservatives tend to call the poor lazy. Liberals are more likely to assume they're inept. Either way, getting through poverty with your dignity intact is far from easy.Tracy Moaverohttp://www.blogger.com/profile/08280055712515863977noreply@blogger.com0