The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely mine and not connected in anyway to the United States Peace Corps.


the system is flawed.

then again, nothing is perfect.

oh yes, i, the die hard liberal of the family, am complaining about government programs lumped under the title of "the system" such as food stamps, section 8 housing, medicaid, TANF, WIC, and probably a bunch of other acronyms i have not yet had the pleasure of trying to deal with.

the problem is, how does one go about fixing such a huge problem?  and, trust me--it's huge.

for example, getting assistance from section 8 housing.

Now, you must keep in mind that the county i'm working in is one of the ten poorest counties in the nation and the people i'm working with ie: women seeking shelter from abusive partners; pretty much have nothing (everyone that has come through the shelter so far qualified for WIC while living at home which requires a family income 185% below the poverty line).  But regardless of the situation they were in before coming to the shelter, what i'm focused on is their situation after their time at the shelter--after all, this is supposed to be a transition period for them on their way to a new independent life away from their abuser, not a permanent solution.  Hence i was introduced to section 8 housing.  Due to the need in this area, quite a few apartment complexes participate and there are even 3 apartment complexes solely for section 8 housing. It is a great program, people pay rent on a sliding scale based on their income (and yes, in case you're wondering one of things i do with the women is go to local job agencies and help them find employment). The problem in this area is that everyone qualifies.

And by everyone i mean the Housing Authority (people in charge of the screening and application process) has a waiting list of over a year and a half... to get an application. Yep, there's a waiting list to get on the waiting list. And you want to know why? It's because once people get section 8 housing they don't leave.  The only way there is an opening is if a tenant dies or is kicked out for not following the rules. And that's great, for the people that get an apartment, but what about all those other people--where in the world do they go? I'll tell you what most abused women do--they stay with their partner. It's tough to make it in the world as a poor single woman, let alone a single women with children.

And there are restrictions on the type of apartment you qualify for, which is necessary--a single person shouldn't take up (or have to pay for) a 4 bed room apartment.  but due to the restriction of having to have all rooms filled, the woman who comes to us without kids doesn't qualify for the rare 2 bedroom apartment opening i found the other day.  And there aren't many 1 room apts to begin with--there just isn't a need for it in this area.

You want to know my opinion on the problem with "the system" as I see it? It creates stagnancy, it creates a false sense of security, and it creates dependence.  Now, before you start thinking my time down here has turned me into a fiscally conservative convert, i want to assure you, it hasn't--the solution i see forming in my mind for section 8 housing requires if anything more government assistance in the form of a graduated program where people start out in apartments and gradually move into renting houses to eventually own.  Included with that would have to be financial literacy programs--required attendance for all renters, stricter guidelines on how long people were allowed to live in such places, etc. And probably a lot of case workers.  But think about it--more jobs would be created from the gov't building all those houses people would eventually own,  people would learn how to save and budget their money, and all those psych majors could find employment as case workers!  (sorry for the dig if you're a psych major).

Oh, i don't know. And while it's necessary to think of solutions to the problems with housing on that kind of 'policy changing' level--right now, it doesn't help the woman i mentioned earlier.  she's stayed with us for 5 weeks--3 weeks longer than the shelter contract allows because she can't find anywhere to go. And sometimes, it just feels like I'm running around in circles down here. because, she'll have to go somewhere eventually--to another shelter?  maybe.  but then what?

all these problems and no solutions.  and i wonder why i can't sleep.


and suddenly . . . it all fits.

i haven't felt like this in quite some time.  my heart is pounding, my thoughts are racing, a ridiculous grin is plastered on my face and this probably sounds silly but . . . I kinda feel like i could fly.

what could possibly make me feel this way?

you're going to laugh. but i'll tell you anyway.

i think i've found the perfect grad program. it's been a long time coming for me, or so i've been told, when it comes to deciding what i want to do with my life. i've slowly been narrowing it down (after ruling out any area dealing with my undergrad degrees--that would be far too logical of a pursuit to make) and to be honest, i've kinda just been stuck.  ever since being abroad i realized i want to work with international policy and human rights but i wasn't really sure how to even start doing that. most of the masters in international public policy degrees i've looked into require not only the academic background but substantial work in the field before they'll even consider you...

and then i took this internship on the border.

it's been a good learning experience in a myriad of ways: international (us/mexico) issues, women's rights issues, federal programs like medicaid, food stamps, section 8 housing, how to help domestic abuse survivors, how to run a women's shelter, how to incorporate/start up a non-profit, and even how to start filing for a divorce! but the most important thing i've learned from this internship is that in order to make a difference on the scale i want to, i need an advanced degree.

I guess i always knew that, but after ugrad, part of me just wanted to go out and make a difference right now and on a case-by-case basis (until i'm done with this 501-C3), i am.  but man oh man, once i actually started doing things on more than just a superficial level i realized just how handy a law degree would be--for a lot of different reasons.

that's right.

now, if you know me, you probably know my preconceptions about lawyers, mostly that they are probably stuck up and probably like to argue. not only is this not 100% true, i've come to a point where i've realized while i may not enjoy confrontation, sometimes confrontation is necessary to get what you need done.  and i may not enjoy arguing, but i do have a passion for insuring equality--if it takes a little arguing to get me there, so be it. as for being stuck-up? well, everyone is a bit snobbish about something.

so that's that for right now. i've found the perfect dual degree, combining my international interest and new found enthusiasm for law.  if only i would hear back from the peace corps my world would be perfect.

but enough thinking about the future--back to the present! tomorrow morning's agenda? drafting up a conflict of interest policy and ethical conduct policy and then taking a women staying at the shelter to her doctor appointments.  it's an odd mix of things that i end up doing around here, but i think i'm finally starting to like it.


only 5 months out of ugrad...

i miss formals.

not formal halls from Cam (though those are nice too)--I'm talking about Zeta (or CUA) formals. the afternoons we'd spend getting ready: trying on dresses, searching the wing to find someone to help us with our hair, giggling in front of the mirror with rap blaring in the background, all leading up to a night filled with dinner, dancing, pictures, happiness and high heels.

i guess at the end of the day, i know i'm doing a lot of good here but really... sometimes... all i want to do is be a 22 year old girl and dance.  

does that make me selfish? probably. it's a question i've been struggling a lot with recently -- mostly because the work that i'm doing requires me to be as unselfish as i've ever had to be in my life. whether it's working with the women that come through the shelter, painting countless bookshelves, staffing book fairs, or sorting out problems for the many residents that come to the mission house asking for clothes, money, medicine, etc... i feel like i'm constantly worrying about other people's problems--something i'm just not used to doing.  

then again, i didn't come here to do something i was used to doing.  otherwise i'd be reading primary papers right now or futilely attempting to sneak in time in a practise room. while there are things i miss about undergrad, school work is not yet one of those things.

but formals?  i think i might always miss those.

senior Zetas. fall formal 2009



He was sitting in the back seat, staring at his hands, trying not to show any emotion—pretending not to care. But his eyes betrayed him.  A mixture of anger, frustration, and despair welled within his tears and it was all his 13-year-old eyes could do to keep those tears from falling.  It was happening again, he was getting withdrawn from school, was being made to give up his football pads, his favorite teacher, his friends and there was nothing he could do about it. And I?  I had never felt like such a villain.

I know I shouldn’t feel bad about it, I know I was helping him and his mom get as far away from his father as possible. The best course of action for the situation at hand was escape to another shelter, another city—another life.   But it’s one thing to reason through the logical course of action and a completely different thing to walk down the hall with a 13-year-old boy who is leaving school and having to completely cut off communication with everyone he’s ever known.  The real world is never as fair or easy as the logical course of action makes it out to be.

He didn’t want to leave.  He wanted his father, his friends, and his life to stay the same.  He wanted to play in the football game that evening, it was his first time being a ‘starter’. He’s at the age where he is no longer a child to be taken by the hand and led blindly—he’s simultaneously old enough to be aware of the situation and young enough to not fully comprehend the outcome.  They say he’ll understand when he’s older.  I wish he didn’t have to wait that long. 

It’s hard enough to deal with abuse from the standpoint of an outsider when it involves two adults in a relationship they both choose to enter, but when you bring children into it, children who didn’t choose to be born to those parents, who have no control over the situation at hand, who are completely dependent on the very people* causing the problems—it makes my heart ache.

I’ve now been in this internship for 5 weeks.  For the past 3 weeks I’ve been the shelter manager for the women’s shelter here in Eagle Pass (which is actually not a true business yet, I’m also starting the business, writing up by-laws, figuring out a budget for the next 3 years, and filling out the necessary state and federal forms so we can be recognized as a legal entity rather then merely a group of people trying to do good, but that might be a subject for another post.)  and at times it’s tested me to my limits of patience and sanity.  I've had to explain to a 13 year old boy why it was important he move away from his life and everything he knew, I've had to drive an unsuspecting 12 year old boy to psychiatric evaluation, eventually checking him in for 7 days of observation and treatment. I've had to supervise CPS visitations for one of the women staying in our shelter, she gets one hour a week to visit her 4 children--all under the age of 8.

Abuse hurts everyone it touches but at the end of the day, I think it hurts the children the most.

As for R? i hope only the best in life for him from now on. he's one of the bravest kids i've gotten the pleasure of knowing.

*I say people because while I in no way blame the abused partner for the abuse s/he suffers and I understand that it’s hard to leave, if one stays in an abusive relationship s/he is helping to perpetuate the situation. No one else can make that first step to get out of the abuse but the ‘abusee’ and it is a step that must be made.