I wrote the first version of this series a couple of weeks before I purchased and download the movie Runaway Slave with the Rev. C.L. Bryant. Little did I know that what I started to touch on my experiences in social services that it was all covered in this documentary. I’ve had the great fortune to be able to get to know many of the great patriots in Runaway Slave on our radio show, including Rev. Bryant himself. In this documentary Rev. Bryant brings to the public what living on the “government plantation” has done to the communities including the black communities featured in his film.
This week the local newspaper Augusta Chronicle covered the plans to demolish a public housing development that just 10 years ago had undergone a major renovation at the taxpayer expense to the tune of $13 million. The story also reflects on the families interviewed and their feelings on having to move from the development. Every one of the people interviewed expressed they had lived in this complex all their lives. One was 53 years old. If you read the article, you can’t help but ask the question, “Why did these people not get out sooner?” The answer is because they didn’t have to. It’s what they grew up knowing, what they were raised to believe is the norm for their lives. That is tragic.
I said in my first article on this series that generational welfare is an addiction. When we worked as providers for the “at risk” families in these very communities we also (on our own with NO funding but our own pocket books) offered programs and opportunities for the parent to obtain training in job skills as well as gain their GED if they didn’t graduate high school. Many of these family members opted to not take us up on our offer. Instead we were given a list of excuses as to why they could not go to the classes or why they could not sign up for job training. The “unknown” for them was scarier than the “known” environment they had lived in most if not all their lives.
One case example of how the system fails was a 24-year-old female who had 7 children and was pregnant with her 8th child. The children were taken out of the home due to abuse and neglect. The woman kicked her second oldest son in his private areas so hard it caused his scrotum to become lodged in his stomach area and required emergency surgery to correct. The mother also threatened to kill the baby she was carrying by stabbing herself in the stomach. This mother was not new to the system for reports of abuse or neglect. The children taken into care had their first ever dental and medical visits when our agency became involved. The dental provider who shared his report for her case was outraged by the fact that four of the children had tooth decay so severe they would need extraction of most of their teeth and Medicaid didn’t cover all of the expenses. This was the same mother who was awarded around $10,000 worth of furniture for her new townhouse (rent subsidized) that I mentioned in my first article. Her kids were returned to her within 2 weeks because there was no foster home at the time available for all the children. Do you see the irony here of her being rewarded? Are you outraged yet? I wish I could say this was the exception of the cases we were a part of, but sadly this was simply more of the “norm” where we worked.
When I posted my article on Facebook, one of the comments I received was, “Why did she (me) not offer solutions?” We did. However, if the government does not provide to these people the incentive to get off of the welfare system, what do you propose private citizens do? If we offered solutions and programs but we can’t force the families to complete them do you think the Government will step in? Not by a long shot.
Even community involvement was silent. When we tried to open up two shelters in buildings we owned in the area, we reached out to the churches in the communities immediately thinking surely they would be happy to become involved to assist. Wow, were we wrong on that! Instead we were hit with attitudes of “NIMBY” (not in my back yard) or even worse, the pastors gave us the “What’s in it for me/ you’re not the right color so how can you understand” mantra. It didn’t matter that our team of contractors were the most diverse set of providers the state had a contract with. Unfortunately, for many so called “leaders of the community” (as the movie Runaway Slave shows) they did not see an incentive to become involved unless they got something out of it for themselves. Outraged yet?
Until our Government welfare system puts in place and enforces limits on how long people receive assistance, there simply are no incentives or ramifications for people who live generationally on the people’s dime. There are also no “checks and balances” for caseworkers to make the family comply with the orders. Caseworkers are so overloaded they can’t keep up with the fraud or abuse. If you try to suggest drug screening before you get your benefits, then you have politicians fighting you and suggesting you are just trying to take “civil rights” away from these people. Of course you are then labeled heartless as well, but how is it heartless to offer people a way out of the system that keeps them in poverty and with limited options in the first place?
Sadly for my husband and me, those buildings we once hoped would provide services and shelter for the poor now sit vacant and have been vandalized and burglarized over 15 times in two years. We spent years of our time and thousands of dollars in our savings to provide furnishings and decorations in those buildings, trying to make them pleasing for children whose lives were rocked by tragedy. Now, they are marked with gang tagging. All the furnishings, plumbing and wiring have been stripped by thieves–including the church pews that were donated by the congregation where my husband once served as Pastor. The buildings are a shell of what they once were, not only in physical presence but also in the way our hearts once held them. I guess I could be callous about the whole experience but my husband still hopes that one day a non-profit will decide to lease the buildings for a great purpose once again. Otherwise we plan to sell them.
You can label me (some have) as “Chicken Little” claiming “the sky is falling” but if asked, I can truly answer the question, “Have you ever tried to do something about it?” I can also say that I know firsthand how the system fails and how the morality of the family is eroding.
Is this problem new? Absolutely not! However the problem is not getting any better either. We the people must get off the soapbox and become involved in our political system. We must write to our representatives and our senators and tell them what we expect them to do with our tax dollars! We must become educated on what is going on in our communities with our money and show up when it comes to vote! It is not too late for us to change the course of our great nation, but it won’t be easy; nothing truly worth fighting for ever is!
This is why I believe this election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is the most important one in our lifetime. Those of us who are watching our future of independence and opportunity to be anything we choose in life disappear and replaced by Government entitlements realize the importance of this election. Soon the takers will outnumber the makers and no amount of taxation will appease the greed of our Government. Whether it’s social justice or corporate greed, we the people had better wake up and show up to vote for the candidate that reflects the better path for our children and grandchildren’s sake of survival.