Marginalized News Commentary for Changemakers

Archive for October, 2013

The Boyfriend

Women receiving welfare benefits often ‘host’ a boyfriend to have companionship and ‘maybe’ provide additional financial support. Unfortunately, the man is often more needy than the woman and he often needs the woman to support him!

 He usually has mental issues that significantly contribute to his diminished self-esteem. Some have criminal backgrounds and are often newly released from prison. The women rarely ask the critical questions about their ‘lovers’ past. Perhaps they fear hearing something negative and just decide to ignore his ‘life’s travels’. After all, he is there to care for her loneliness. Whatever happened in the past stays in the past. But does it?

She has a man who can father her children and give them the love and guidance they crave. He is so desperately needed to add normalcy to the family structure that whatever happened in the past is irrelevant. So for a few weeks things are great. Then slowly things start to unravel. The welfare check arrives and he needs to make ‘a purchase’ (drugs). She reluctantly gives him the money and the relationship because to deteriorate. She now lives with a drug addicted man who is abusive, angry and worse, a deadbeat. He threatens her if she mentions leaving using her children as the pawn. A few friends (who are no longer welcome at her home) warned her about him.  Her family was aspirated the moment they met him. He is the epitome of a violent conceited junkie who cares only for himself.

Why would a woman repeatedly entangle herself in a toxic relationship? Often it’s because she grew up in a toxic family environment and no one has ever challenge her to seek something better for herself. This vicious cycle is the only life show knows and understands. Deep within she knows there is something better. But she doesn’t feel worthy of pursuing a ‘better’ lifestyle.

If Government officials really want to end ‘welfare as we know it’, they must address the complexity of generational poverty. Cutting women’s welfare benefits without providing remedial psychological intervention (not community work) only exacerbates the problem. Counseling must be implemented as a necessary methodology added to the welfare exit strategy. Otherwise, we the taxpayers will continue to dole out large tax revenues with no hope of ever discontinuing a failed system.

We cannot continue to tell these women to simply ‘go get a job!’ They lack upward mobility employment skills and often suffer from mental or emotional dysfunction. They can’t envision a better life for themselves because no one has ever helped them see a brighter tomorrow.  Throughout their lives all they have ever known is poverty and welfare entitlements. They need professional help to reinvent their lives and create positive outcomes for their family.

 Understandably counseling this sector is expensive. But the basic question is do we continue to hand out entitlements or do we become proactive and take the long road in creating sustainable futures for the ‘least of these’? We must construct a new paradigm or the frustration will continue to escalate.

Recruiting Women for Java Hope

Finding suitable candidates for the Java Hope program isn’t difficult when one considers the state of the economy. The problem is convincing potential candidates of the ‘no fee’ program. They are very skeptical of receiving anything ‘free’ that doesn’t originate from Social Services. They have been mistreated, abused and above all disappointed from ‘so call’ people with good intentions. So trusting anyone is difficult.

 Adult instructors emphasize first eliminating the poverty mindset. If we don’t garner trust, the student attrition rate will be startling. This requires being more than just their friend. Educators must feel empathy and demonstrate patience. Most women did not arrive at their present state overnight. Many grew up on welfare and now exhibit a generational mentality towards entitlement programs. Then suddenly, the program stops. Some have never considered that one day they will be compelled to get a job and go to work. They are shocked, scared and overwhelmed. They have no job skills and very limited education. They have nowhere and no one to turn to for help.

Then suddenly there is a free program called Java Hope….of course they are skeptical. There just has to be a ‘trick’ in the program somewhere. I often ease their fears by telling them about my childhood growing up on welfare in the City of Detroit. I fully understand their apprehensions. 

However I share with them a point of intervention from a high school teacher that completely changed my life. Suddenly, they relax and become very interested in the program. Young Mothers really don’t want to be poor. They are often embarrassed and ashamed at being subjected to mistreatment inherent in the system. Yet there is nothing else to help them achieve financial stability. 

It’s normal to be apprehensive when attempting new things. Change is often difficult. But life is forever evolving. It is never static. So we create a bridge helping students to take the plunge and not fall into the ocean. They often share how they hated their lifestyle and now are proud of their accomplishment. They also frequently tell us how much this has impacted their children.

This is the metric that keeps us going when things become difficult. The children!

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