Ending Welfare as We Know It: independent documentary FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:59:08 -0400


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http://weeklywire.com/ww/10-26-98/slc_voices.html
FWD  Salt Lake City Weekly 10-28-98

WORKING OUT WELFARE
     By Karen Denton


       OCTOBER 26, 1998:  A recent independent documentary, Ending Welfare
as We Know It, poignantly demonstrates some of the flaws of the national
push for welfare reform.

       Narrator Meredith Vierra takes us through several months in the
lives of individual women as their lives are changed forever. They range in
age from a teenager caught in New Jersey's statute about young mothers (no
aid for a second child), to a middle-aged woman in rural Wisconsin who has
lived on welfare for 20 years and now must find a job in an economically
depressed area. It is a thought provoking film - one worthy of community
discussion. Unfortunately, KUED has declined to show it despite requests
from members of the Utah Welfare Reform Coalition.

       Few people connected with poverty and its support systems disagreed
that some changes were essential. The welfare culture split up families,
kept people in poverty, and perpetuated itself through generations of both
recipients and workers who were either too helpful or punitive. The Utah
version of its replacement, with its philosophical emphasis on getting
people into any kind of employment rather than genuine movement out of
poverty, is still new and setting in, but the first assessments concern
advocates.

       Many Department of Workforce Services (DWS) workers do not seem to
understand the vision of creating an efficient service that supports people
in their efforts to achieve self-reliance. For example, one homeless mother
was recently told to keep her 14-year-old home from school to watch the
younger children, despite the fact that DWS has money available for three
months of free child care specifically targeted at homeless families. Other
workers are unaware that people can still receive assistance while they go
through schooling or job-related training.

       As problematic as these examples are, the real issues transcend Utah
policies to underpin a national ethic. They involve the continuation of a
system that perceives clients as deficits rather than assets to the
community, and the almost universal unwillingness of policy makers to
address the need for living wages that move people out of poverty. Add to
this the assumption that if we just cut people off welfare they will
automatically know how to survive without any kind of mentoring, and we
have a bureaucracy bound to fail poor people as much as the old one.

       The women in the documentary do everything their case workers ask.
One, without a high school diploma, makes daily forays into the job market
as part of her case plan, with absolutely no success. She eventually
finishes high school, but relapses into drug use and loses her children as
well as her assistance. Still, she and the other women remain hopeful about
their lives, despite battling clinical depression, substance abuse,
domestic violence and rejection. They demonstrate remarkable resilience,
determination, ingenuity and optimism; yet, they receive very little credit
for their innate survival skills.

       If we really want to end welfare, then there are a number of steps
to take. The first is to begin a living wage campaign that makes sense for
Utah. Our average household income is $19,500 per year, ranked 44th in the
nation, while the price of our housing has increased 75 percent in the past
five years. A living wage is one that provides a good quality of life based
on one 40-hour-per-week job. Second, we need to reorganize our social
service agencies and neighborhoods so that clients become citizens and
contributors to the community. Third, urge KUED to show the film and
organize public forums around it to discuss the issues.

       Poverty will exist as long as we assume it has to; it isn't
necessary to raise another generation of children within its specter.

END FORWARD
-
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is
distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **

HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page
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http://weeklywire.com/ww/10-26-98/slc_voices.html

FWD  Salt Lake City Weekly 10-28-98


<paraindent><param>right,left</param>WORKING OUT WELFARE

     By Karen Denton

</paraindent>


       OCTOBER 26, 1998:  A recent independent documentary, Ending
Welfare as We Know It, poignantly demonstrates some of the flaws of the
national push for welfare reform. 


       Narrator Meredith Vierra takes us through several months in the
lives of individual women as their lives are changed forever. They
range in age from a teenager caught in New Jersey's statute about young
mothers (no aid for a second child), to a middle-aged woman in rural
Wisconsin who has lived on welfare for 20 years and now must find a job
in an economically depressed area. It is a thought provoking film - one
worthy of community discussion. Unfortunately, KUED has declined to
show it despite requests from members of the Utah Welfare Reform
Coalition. 


       Few people connected with poverty and its support systems
disagreed that some changes were essential. The welfare culture split
up families, kept people in poverty, and perpetuated itself through
generations of both recipients and workers who were either too helpful
or punitive. The Utah version of its replacement, with its
philosophical emphasis on getting people into any kind of employment
rather than genuine movement out of poverty, is still new and setting
in, but the first assessments concern advocates. 


       Many Department of Workforce Services (DWS) workers do not seem
to understand the vision of creating an efficient service that supports
people in their efforts to achieve self-reliance. For example, one
homeless mother was recently told to keep her 14-year-old home from
school to watch the younger children, despite the fact that DWS has
money available for three months of free child care specifically
targeted at homeless families. Other workers are unaware that people
can still receive assistance while they go through schooling or
job-related training. 


       As problematic as these examples are, the real issues transcend
Utah policies to underpin a national ethic. They involve the
continuation of a system that perceives clients as deficits rather than
assets to the community, and the almost universal unwillingness of
policy makers to address the need for living wages that move people out
of poverty. Add to this the assumption that if we just cut people off
welfare they will automatically know how to survive without any kind of
mentoring, and we have a bureaucracy bound to fail poor people as much
as the old one. 


       The women in the documentary do everything their case workers
ask. One, without a high school diploma, makes daily forays into the
job market as part of her case plan, with absolutely no success. She
eventually finishes high school, but relapses into drug use and loses
her children as well as her assistance. Still, she and the other women
remain hopeful about their lives, despite battling clinical depression,
substance abuse, domestic violence and rejection. They demonstrate
remarkable resilience, determination, ingenuity and optimism; yet, they
receive very little credit for their innate survival skills. 


       If we really want to end welfare, then there are a number of
steps to take. The first is to begin a living wage campaign that makes
sense for Utah. Our average household income is $19,500 per year,
ranked 44th in the nation, while the price of our housing has increased
75 percent in the past five years. A living wage is one that provides a
good quality of life based on one 40-hour-per-week job. Second, we need
to reorganize our social service agencies and neighborhoods so that
clients become citizens and contributors to the community. Third, urge
KUED to show the film and organize public forums around it to discuss
the issues. 


       Poverty will exist as long as we assume it has to; it isn't
necessary to raise another generation of children within its specter.


END FORWARD

-

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. **


HOMELESS PEOPLE'S NETWORK  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/>  Home Page

ARCHIVES  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/archives.html>  read posts to HPN

TO JOIN  <<http://aspin.asu.edu/hpn/join.html> or email Tom <<wgcp@earthlink.net>

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