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.


Lew said...

Well written - - - as a place to start. You have framed your experiences in a fairly good perspective.
Sadly, all of the issues you raised have been addressed many decades ago by professional social workers and psychologists. However, as the financial climate worsened, the challenges to the individuals you serve worsened and the availability of resources they need decreased. Some solutions recommended by professional social workers many decades ago have been ignored by legislators. The reasons for this are numerous, but prominent among them is the fact that most legislators come from formal training as attorneys. What is the solution of choice for most lawyers when a problem is identified? - MONEY. Throw money at a problem and make it go away.
This is not always what Professional social workers recommend. When it comes to the human condition, lasting change does not come from short-term allocations of money. What is often recommended and what addresses the heart of most problems is 'opportunity' and this has far-reaching positive outcomes. An example is the housing shortage you identified. People do not need, nor do they truly benefit from 'Public Housing' which creates dependencies, sours the spirit, demeans the individual and scars the children. What other problem being faced by all cities could be addressed while simultaneously helping people obtain housing and motivate them and at the same time improve their self-esteem and lift them out of a downward spiral of dependencies? That problem is abandoned houses in our cities. Give those families needing housing a grant &/or loan to fix up an abandoned house and allow them to live in it and actually obtain ownership after a specified number of years during which they must maintain it to predetermined levels and many problems are ameliorated simultaneously with minimal public expense. Deteriorating neighborhoods could be turned around, many trades would see increased employment performing the work, deplorable Public Housing could be greatly reduced/eliminated, parents would gain heightened self-esteem and become motivated while providing positive roll modeling for their children.
There are other examples of solutions to the infinite variety of the human condition, but perhaps we should take this discussion out of the PC Blogs. If you want, I will gladly continue an exchange in other e-mail.
By the way, I specifically stated "professional" social workers in the above so as to differentiate from those who are untrained do-gooders who might not have the combination of a macro-level perspective along with the micro-level skills necessary to successfully address societal ills.
Best wishes in your continued efforts!

Carly said...

I am so proud of you and the work you're doing. What you're fighting for is always going to be difficult but you can make a difference and change the system one person at a time.

.M. said...

Lew--it sounds like you've given a lot of thought to issues i'm currently just starting to get involved with! and since some day i hope to be in a position where i'm able to make changes on a policy level (rather than just a person by person level) I'd love to continue the conversation, bouncing ideas back and forth in email. Please feel free to contact me at

Carly--thanks for the support friend, it's been tougher than i thought it would be, but i know i'll look back on this experience and see that it has been good for me and what i want to do later on in life. can't wait to see you again!!