Working with Those in Poverty

I had my first day of training in Harrisburg for my new position as an Income Maintenance Case Manager. I had my doubts about the first day because the speaker was going to talk to us about poverty. I wasn’t sure what exactly she was going to say. I’ve seen poverty in India and know that poverty there is much different than poverty in America, but just the same, it is poverty.

From Being Poor by John Scalzi

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Being poor is hoping that toothache goes away.

Being poor is off-brand toys.

Being poor is needing that 35 cents raise.

Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.

Being poor is a lumpy bed.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.

I can’t help but once again compare America to India. What I saw in India were people who were poor, but found a way to survive. (And if they didn’t, they died and were burned by the Ganges River.) While they were helped from within their village, they didn’t expect help from anyone, certainly not their government. Even getting help in the government hospital is beyond sketchy. (Check out my blog post with hospital photos http://wp.me/p1j2Ur-2Nk)

So getting assistance in Pennsylvania really isn’t that difficult. Come in, show you are in need, and, in as soon as 5 days, food stamps can be available. Did you know ALL the guidelines for receiving assistance is online for anyone to read and perhaps fact check things like:

  1. The state gives illegal aliens benefits. (False)
  2. Illegal alien’s children can get benefits. (True)
  3. It doesn’t matter what car a recipient drives as long as they have insurance/registration. (True)
  4. Legal aliens can move here and sign up immediately for benefits. (False-must live in US 5 years legally first)
  5. The state pays people to go to school. (Somewhat true)
  6. Recipients can have a boat load of money and still get benefits. (True)

There are two types of poverty that cause a person to apply for assistance: Situational and Generational

Situational is caused by a specific event and is shorter in time. I personally am relatively fresh out of situational poverty. My journey into poverty wasn’t really unique; poverty due to divorce is one of three big reasons that poverty happens. The other two are death and illness.

It was incredibly strange to apply for food stamps and medical assistance for Tesla and me when I drove a Mercedes. Yeah, crazy huh? If it makes you feel any better about me getting assistance, eventually the Mercedes was repossessed. Then the state paid $750 for a car so I could drive to college on my state-funded scholarship. If it makes you feel any better, I still had to take out student loans to pay rent and utilities and anything else I needed to pay for (lawyer fees!!) to survive. I still drive that car everyday to my state job. 1992 Honda Accord…I will drive it until it doesn’t run.

The other poverty, generational, is much different. It is a cycle that seems impossible to break. The speaker today gave us a piece of advice and I am taking it to heart. She said that it’s none of our concern what recipients spend their money on, and we shouldn’t even concern ourselves with it, and in the long run it will save us tons of grief and an early burn out.

According to research, those in poverty live in the present and money is to be spent, and since they’re living in the now, they might as well get what makes them happy and helps them to feel their life is normal.  Something clicked in my head while we went through the research and I listened to the speaker. Those in poverty don’t want to be in poverty, but they can’t seem to escape it, so since they’re stuck, they might as well make the most of it while they can.

I want to love my job and do the best I can to serve the public. I’m not a social worker, I’m a case manager. Most people I’ll never even see or talk to. That’s just how it works. It’s all about managing the cases in quantity because, the programs we direct them too, and that’s who helps them handle their lives.

And that was just day one of training.

~P.

Comment your thoughts, ideas, opinions, what you had for lunch and your favorite color. 😉

Link to the cash assistance handbook.  Check out the policies if you’d like an easy way to fall asleep.

http://services.dpw.state.pa.us/oimpolicymanuals/cash/Cash_Assistance_Handbook.htm#Title_Page.htm

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