04 May Poverty (and Possibly the Three Most Spoken Words About It)
Get a job.
It’s the one thing that I hear the most when I talk to people about hunger, poverty, and homelessness in the United States.
“Just tell them to get a job.”
It’s often said in passing, with a shrug, like it’s an easy answer to a decades-long, complicated problem. Sometimes, people are angry. Very angry. And then they say unimaginable things to people who are already feeling like they are hanging on by the last thread.
But, as many of you understand, it’s not that easy. There are some areas that we serve in Appalachia where the closest grocery store is 50 miles away. There’s no industry, there are no stores and there are no jobs — no, not even McDonald’s. Many of the people we serve would praise God for the chance to have a job at a fast food restaurant.
“Let them get a job.”
It’s so easy to say it, but what about people who have a past that haunts them? There are people who have turned their lives around and tried to stay on the right path, only to be told by society over and over that they aren’t good enough for a second chance … that they don’t matter.
A friend recently wrote this:
While I fully agree that God wants us to work, if able (even when He told the Israelites to give the fallen grain to the poor, they had to come out and get it – they had to work to gather it. It wasn’t handed to them), there are some tricky spots.
The building our friend lives in allows them to live rent-free if they are unemployed. Most of them cannot find jobs because of a criminal record. If they do find work, the building takes 1/3 of their pay. For most of them, they have a long record of things they owe money to including the government (unpaid taxes, back child support, spousal support, unpaid college debt, and so on). Point is: by the end of the day, their entire check is taken and they still don’t have money for the other things like food.
So … what about them?
They are a tiny remnant of people but they do exist.
Many in that building are mentally ill or they have severe brain damage from past drug use or traumas. They don’t usually hold down a job for more than a few days or weeks before getting fired. The cycle then continues all over again.
That building is “end of the road” for many and a lot of them will die there … or commit suicide.
Our friend has attempted to get jobs many times and they always end up hiring someone else.
So what then?
There are food banks around but they only allow the guys to get food 6 times per year. There are soup kitchens at churches but they don’t often give much food.
I don’t have the answers…
I don’t have the answers either, but I do know this: I don’t want someone committing suicide on my watch because they feel like they have no place to turn.
One Million Americans Lose Food Stamps
This year, one million Americans will lose access to SNAP, or “food stamps,” as a result of a work mandate that took effect. The mandate stipulates that “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) who do not have children or a disability must find a job within three months of receiving the benefit and work an average of 20 hours a week.”
It sounds good, doesn’t it?
It sounds good until you think about those people who are 50 miles from any kind of work, with no car and no public transportation.
It sounds good until you think about people with a criminal record who are trying to start over, but are given no chances.
It sounds good until you realize that not everyone on “food stamps” is a lazy person not willing to work.
It sounds good until you’re one of those people falling through the crack.
Maybe, “it sounds good” should be three most spoken words we say about poverty … as long as it doesn’t pertain to us.
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