Poor families.........let's discuss ways to help that work

Jennifer - posted on 03/07/2012 ( 21 moms have responded )

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So the post on whether poor mothers are worse parents got me thinking. I use to be a mom on assistance, both as a single mom, and after I married. I always wanted to finish my degree, I always wanted to to be able to work my way off the goverment hand-outs, but things always seemed so stacked against us.



It was hard to find a job, then daycare took all my money. In my area, there is no public transportation, so a car and driving is a must. One medical emergency could set us back months. I remember a conversation I had with my boss, she didn't want to write me a check one week because I'd 'only' be getting $50! That is when I realized that to her $50 was like nothing, but to me, it was the difference between eating or not!



My family is doing better now, when my kid needs $5 for a school project we don't panic anymore. I also have been able to help some less fortunite kids. Last week my duaghters teacher ask all the kids to bring an apple for a project, so I bought several. I also explained to her that for many parents, buying something last minute at the end of the month is impossible. It still gets to me that some people can't wrap their head around the fact that yes, for some parents an apple is out of their reach! These people, who have never had to worry about what to feed their kids that night, are the ones controlling the programs. They don't even understand what we need!! Rush screams go get a job- great, I will if you will pay my car repair bill! The Obama's are all for giving me food money- but I'd prefer clean clothes to wear for an interveiw! And can you throw in a hot plate to cook the food on? Please??



Does anyone else feel that the goverment is doing things backwards? I would have picked up garbage on the highway for a few bucks rather than sit with no hope. What would you like to see the goverment offer people?

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[deleted account]

I am spearheading a program in my area that helps women get jobs. I focus on the homeless and at-risk-for-becoming-homeless, but you do not have to fall into those categories to take part--you don't even have to be low income, because, quite frankly, we don't have the $$ in our budget to check.



When women sign up for our program, we provide them with a PO box (if they are homeless) and a voicemail box for call backs (these are provided with federal grant $$).



Next they get help writing and mailing resumes and filling out applications. This is provided entirely by volunteers and paper donated from a local business. We have 4 computers for online applications donated by a generous man. The same man, who is very respected in the business sector here, teamed up with several local businesses to hire our homeless. Once employers find out an applicant or employee is homeless, they look for any reason to let them go--they don't trust them, but this man convinced them to.

Once they have an interview, we dress them. We have a closet full of interview clothes for women to borrow for the interview. We trust them to bring them back, and usually they do. (This is provided by donations, the closet is located in our homeless shelter).

We provide transportation to and from the interview, either in the form of a bus ride, cab fare, or volunteer driver.



We TRY to provide childcare for interviews, and for the time they spend crafting resumes & applications--our biggest obstacle here is a lack of qualified volunteers and lack of funds to pay the qualified. Because we receive a federal grant, our sitters must hold certain qualifications. If we get one certified sitter, she can reside over the non certified, but one must be present at all times. We've got one 3 days a week, for 3 hours a day, but this can be very limiting when scheduling interviews.



Once they get a job, we give them a small wardrobe based on their job (if it has a uniform, we purchase 2 for them). This is provided with a combination of federal grants and donations.



Keeping the job is a WHOLE other ball game. I have a friend working with a project for that, which I'll write about below :)

Isobel - posted on 03/07/2012

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more investment in early education in high risk neighbourhoods including mentoring programs, affordable education for children from high-risk neighbourhoods, healthy food, giving people on welfare the option to get a higher check that allows them to live with dignity while looking for a job temporarily instead of giving them just enough to eek out a living but not enough to travel to interviews or dress well for them. Affordable daycare.

[deleted account]

We have hopes for a garden and cooking class. I have a local chef I am working with.



We have space for a garden, and we are going to have a volunteer log--you sign in the hours you work, and you get free fruit. We want to require 4 hours a month--one hour a week.



Next, he is going to open his restaurant up on Sunday mornings for a free cooking class to teach the parents how to make healthy, low cost meals. He's got weekly menus that will feed a family of 4 on $80/week--and they are healthy!! Even less if they use our free veggies.



This is still in the idea phase, but I hope to make it a reality soon.



ETA:: Obviously, I am very passionate about this--I was homeless for 9 years, then another 3 years. It is hard, but poor people are NOT hopeless, they are NOT worthless, they are NOT leeches on society.



The problem with most of our ideas is that they can only help on a small scale because we lack the funds and volunteers to make them big....What we also need, is ideas to help get the non-poor public involved....

[deleted account]

Thank you MeMe!



Last year I put a reading program in place for homeless mothers. This shelter was a safe haven for abused mothers and those in hiding from their pimps. The volunteers would read stories and do songs with the little ones while the moms watched. We got books through donations, and even got a few music CD's from a local educational toystore in exchange for us letting them hang a banner in the shelter--they even printed the banner, and it's pretty! Volunteers were easy to find, we used local students in Key club, 4H, and college students studying childhood education, sociology, social sciences, and psychology. We even had some from local bookstores that just knew how to do it.



After storytime, one or two volunteers took the kids to another room to play some more. Other volunteers would sit with the moms and explain "how" to read and interact with their kids. There is an art to it that we don't think about. If we are over stressed, or have lacked normal social interaction for too long (and many of these women had) that skill does not come so naturally....It is hard to explain without a whole book.



Some of them didn't know how to read at all, so we used the same books for an adult literacy program, along with the DISTAR program, which can be purchased for $12 and used over and over again--very cost effective!!



I don't know about the long-term impact of that program, but I hope the women kept the skills we gave them and use them to interact with their kids today.

[deleted account]

Helping them keep the jobs we helped them get.



The two biggest obstacles for these women are childcare and transportation.



To help with transportation, we are encouraging carpooling. We have several local businesses that will give gas incentives (in the form of gift cards) to workers who pick up other workers and take them home. We also encourage retail and shift type managers to schedule people to start and stop and the same time to facilitate carpooling. This is actually working really well.

For those working standard shifts 7-3,3-11,11-7, 8-5, and 9-5 we have a bus, provided by a state grant, to pick up people and take them to and from work. This is VERY expensive and can be tricky with times.

For many who live withing the realms of public transport, we depend on donations to buy yearly bus passes--this is something almost ANYONE can do! They cost $130. You can change someone's life, by giving $2 a week!!!! But few people do it.



Childcare is by far our biggest issue. Our state funded care is at it's max capacity. There are no places, and there are no funds to add more places. John is asking private providers with open spots to fill them with our needy kids in exchange for advertisements. So far, he has found 50 spots, but it's hard. We cannot pay for these kids' places because we don't have funds, and if a paying kid comes along, our kid gets bumped out. Unfortunately, right now, we are at a loss as to what else we can do.

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Sarah - posted on 03/09/2012

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Governments are notorious for downstream thinking instead of upstream thinking. When they see families drowning, they pull them out of the river, but they don't look upstream to see who's throwing them in. Billions of dollars are spent on social assistance, medical care, policing, etc. taking care of those who struggle, but they don't try to resolve the problems. I often wonder if they realize that if they created programs to educate (IMO the BIGGEST obstacle for overcoming poverty) and create jobs, crime would decrease, so less money would be spent on policing, people would be healthier (statistically the poor use healthcare more than the wealthy) so less would be spent on health care, and less would be spent on social assistance. Not to mention if people are working they contribute more to society through income tax and assistance for those who are less fortunate, reducing the need for the government to. Unfortunately poverty is a vicious cycle that is very hard to overcome.



I think there needs to be programs to educate people #1. Perhaps programs that teach people trades and gets them into apprenticeships. Perhaps skilled trades workers can get a tax deduction for taking on an apprentice. Or that any government building projects must have at least 20% of the workers on the project apprentices or trainees. Maybe taking people in homeless shelters who want to and put them into housing for free while they train for a trade (say for the space of a year). Hopefully at the end they will be able to find employment and contribute more in taxes for the rest of their lifetime. A year of support seems worth it for a lifetime of tax contributions. Also there needs to be better access to treatment facilities so that those who struggle with addiction can get the help they need. Maybe have a direct entry high school program so that those wishing to go into daycare service can receive some training in child care and maybe only need to do a 6 month program after high school on child development so that there are more daycare workers available (all those new workers will need daycare). Perhaps having a start up grant for those wishing to open a new daycare or tax deductions for those who have a certain percentage of spots for lower income families.



It's funny in a way too because this would also resolve a lot of the economy issues too. When people have more expendable income, they also make more purchases such as clothing, cars, eating out at restaurants, etc. A lost of these industries are struggling because of the increasing poverty, people are spending less. It seems like if people can get training and education that it would help in so many areas. I just wish governments would realize that you have to invest in your population for your population to invest in you.

[deleted account]

This conversation has brought something to light that I hadn't considered before. Most of our programs, including mine, are designed to help the poorest of the poor. Once their basic needs--food, shelter, and clothing--are met, we tend to forget about them, and they are stuck on that dependency with no tools to get off. We don't really help them anymore because we figure they're okay and we have this endless supply of homeless people to move onto.



It is widely accepted that people living on assistance are at a high risk for undiagnosed and untreated mental health issues, and that they often lack basic skills to survive with out assistance. What if we put together a counseling service to diagnose and treat the mentally ill, and a task force to teach financial management skills and help them develop actual action plans for becoming self sufficient.



Obviously, unless they qualify for Medicaid, we cannot use drugs to treat them because it is simply too expensive, but counselling and therapy can be very effective. We would need at least one licenced psychologist, which I have, then we could employ volunteers majoring in psychology, sociology, etc. for the basic counselling. If we can partner with the colleges to offer students credit for their time with us, or allow them to use this experience in thesis papers, we would have no shortage.



The task force to teach basic self sufficiency could be run by anyone. This is similar to the program my friend John is trying to implement, but he is focusing on the homeless and women we've pulled from the sex slave industry. This one would focus on people already living in homes, but barely scraping by....



Thoughts? Would this work for these parents? I have to be honest, I have never been on assistance as a parent--I was homeless as a child and young adult, then I went straight from homeless to rather well off, so I have no experience with what it is like in the middle, between homeless and self sufficient.

[deleted account]

Jodi, I totally understand about having no time when the kids are little--I've only been able to get involved since J started school (he's my only). I'm a sahm too, everything I do is on a volunteer basis right now.



Them mom's I'm talking about on my street are older--their kids are in highschool, college, and out on their own. Something happens with age, I think. Most of the women I meet who really want to help can't because they have young kids, and they are just starting out, so they don't have a lot of money to donate. Then when the kids get older, and they are financially sound, they don't want to help anymore. I don't mean to criticize these ladies either--they are my friends, and they are good women--I just see a good resource in them and wonder how I can tap it.... goodness, that sounds awful too :P



You should definitely start a community center! When you are ready to brainstorm, message me and I can help you :)

Stifler's - posted on 03/08/2012

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Also they need to pay uni students for their work experience instead of wasting 2 days of their time doing free work so they can't afford to live.

Stifler's - posted on 03/08/2012

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@Laura they also only want young people under 20 so they can pay them less money

Stifler's - posted on 03/08/2012

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24/7 daycare. Everywhere not just in major cities. I can't get a job and get daycare with my qualifications because daycare is from 6 to 6 and i would have to start work at 6 which means dropping the kids off at 5 to get to work to do handover and if i had an afternoon shift damo would be back to town too late to pick them up. and i'm sure i'm not alone.

Isobel - posted on 03/07/2012

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next year, I will be deemed unemployable by McDonald's...everybody says "get a job at McDonald's if that's what you have to do" but people with an education are considered "over qualified" for many positions.

Jodi - posted on 03/07/2012

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Kelly, when my children are older and I have 5 seconds to try to come up with a plan, I would really LOVE to start a family center like I mentioned. I think what you're doing is absolutely wonderful!



Although, I have to tell you, as a SAHM myself, I have ZERO time, now I don't know the women you're talking about, perhaps their children are in school and they really do have lots of time, but I don't know many SAHM's that have a whole heck of a lot of time.



As it is, I spend my spare time trying to raise money for local and state charities. I would donate time, but I can't volunteer the hours they need, so I do what I can to help raise funds. One day though!

[deleted account]

Wow...I would love numbers like that, Jodi. Sometimes my area seems overwhelming. My little get a job program is currently trying to help 312 women get jobs! We have one bus, 4 computers, and about 30 outfits in our closet :(



On my street alone, there are about 20 houses, 14 have sahms in them, but they don't want to help with our homeless. I do understand, I'd rather spend my morning at the spa than at the homeless shelter too, but I don't understand how they can completely ignore these issues when they have SO much time! I wish I knew a way to get them involved. They are wealthy, highly educated, and very influential. They could really help if they wanted to. I just don't know how to make them want to....

Jodi - posted on 03/07/2012

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I live in a very small town, 1500 people small. I would wager that roughly 200-300 of those people live in the country operating family farms or small business farms. We have jobs available here, McDonald's hasn't taken down their "Now Hiring, All Positions, Apply Within" in over 4 months, there's a gas station down the street (that I walk to with my daughter to get a treat sometimes) that has been understaffed forever with a help wanted sign in the window, no one applies. So here, it's not that jobs aren't available.



I would love to see a Leisure Center, or Family Center or something started. Something with parental involvement. Story times for the kids, maybe some kids cooking classes (You know, cooking healthy meals with your child), Mommy and Baby classes, be they music, story, massage or whatever. They could offer classes on balancing a budget, balancing a checkbook, feeding a family on a budget, saving on heating, how to ace an interview, how to create and play educational games with your children without paying for the pricey toys, that kind of thing. There are 8...EIGHT SAHMs my tiny little 4 block neighborhood, so the people are around to do with for!!! I think that would help a lot, giving moms a time and the space, with other adults to have structured activities WITH their children. And, they can be educational to boot, for mom and the kids! Such as the cooking class, I love learning new, healthy recipes! And giving them the availability of learning the more basic aspects of running a home (budgeting, cooking, time management etc etc).



Now, there are centers like these in the neighboring towns, but the closest one is a half an hour away, the next closest one is over an hour, I don't have the gas to do that each week and I'm not on assistance, so I doubt someone who makes less than we do, could afford to go there and back. I guess for our town, the government could set up some transportation to bigger towns that have those opportunities.

[deleted account]

In the US, the low income housing projects are very nice. Most have private bathrooms & kitchens with running water and full electric. They also have central heating and a/c! The problem is that we don't have enough of them.



Section 8 housing has started working with investment home owners to put low income families into those houses with Section 8 paying rent directly to the owner. It is great for getting people into homes and off the street, but it is less cost effective than the apartments, and these homes are rarely located on the bus route, which causes transportation problems for the tenants.



For the amount that Section 8 spends on rent and upkeep for one these houses, they could maintain about 12 families in a government owned apartment. Also, in the same amount of space they are housing a single family with a yard, they could build a 6 to 8 story building to house more than 50 families. Unfortunately, lands zoned for multifamily housing is growing scarce in our area. We are trying to get more apartment companies to work with Section 8 the way the private landlords are, but they are less willing to cooperate. It would still cost more than the govt. owned structures, but they are already in place, more likely to be on the bus route, and still less expensive than the individual houses.

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 03/07/2012

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So was I Laura. I was a single mother and I did NOT get the $100/month because my daughter was over 5 years old... I did, however, already have a subsidized spot. The price went up though and for 1.5 years I was feeling it hard, once I was off of welfare... ;)



Yep and I lived in housing! Which is how I got welfare... It was not pleasant but I did not have to get student loans. 4 years was PAID for, including Daycare and transportation. I was on welfare for 7 years. However, the system helped me greatly. I am very thankful it was there.

Isobel - posted on 03/07/2012

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and before we go talking about Canada again, The gov't was kind enough to close half the spots for subsidized daycare in exchange for that whopping $100 per month. Yes the middle class loved them and re-elected them, but at the time I was a single mother and a hair dresser who waited over a year on a list for daycare and ended up having to quit working and stay home with my kids, then I applied for welfare and they told me Icouldn't have it unless I moved to Ontario housing...thank god somebody saved me and lent me money so that I could go back to school and get student loans or my life would be very different now.

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 03/07/2012

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Wow - Kelly. Amazing! What a wonderful job you guys are doing. It is absolutely wonderful. I can see it is not easy but may I say "give yourself a huge pat on the back", what you guys are doing is awesome!

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 03/07/2012

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Here, you can get subsidized Daycare. So, depending on how much you make, you get a subsidized spot. You must make $45 000/year or less. If you make under $20 000/year the Daycare cost is next to zero....



We are fairly lucky here in Canada. The Government tries hard to help. The problem is they don't try hard to help those on assistance get off of it. They make it next to impossible.



What Jenni said here:

I think the government needs to look at people on assistance, not as "how much should we give them to meet their basic needs" but more "what are the road blocks preventing individuals from returning to work." Is spot on. That is exactly what needs to happen. Currently, in Canada anyhow, they enable those on assistance to stay on it. I mean, they will pay for your schooling but you have to ask them about it. They do not indulge this information. They do not follow up and make sure you are trying to help yourself. You are left alone, once you are approved. Unless you fight and make them help you. They will not go out of their way to help unless you make them.



If you work, you are only able to keep $75/week, anything over that gets garnished from your assistance cheque. For a single parent/child home, you only get $800/month from assistance and $300/month for child tax (another $100/month if they are under 5 but assistance takes that because it is considered income, as it is not the same as child tax).



The assistance in Canada, helps clothe you for a job/interview. It is $150/$200 clothing bonus. However, in my opinion working for an extra $300/month doesn't go that far when you aren't getting much to add it to. However, to have schooling and Daycare paid for, hell yes! I used that portion of assistance and it was the best thing I have ever done in my life. Took 4 years of schooling but I make well over $50000/year now, I am not bragging, I am showing what can be done when on assistance if you truly try! I am not going to lie, it was friggen hard. (This was 7 years ago)



Anyhow, there are good and bad parts to the assistance program the Government provides. The main thing is educating yourself on the benefits and using every single morsel available.... That is what it is there for. It is not there to be abused, unfortunately, like anything else that is handed out, it is abused often.....

Jenni - posted on 03/07/2012

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I think affordable daycare services for single parents is lacking and one of the biggest contributors to why many single parents can't "afford" to work. I bet that would help a ton of single parents to get off assistance and make more money than they would on. It's such a major road block. Working a minimum wage job and paying for daycare services, gas, reliable transportation.. at the end of the pay period you're pretty much breaking even.



I mean, you do receive a tax credit of $100/child a month for daycare, but that maybe covers daycare for a week. An assistance program specifically geared towards single parents and their needs would be helpful. I think the government needs to look at people on assistance, not as "how much should we give them to meet their basic needs" but more "what are the road blocks preventing individuals from returning to work."



More incentive for the working poor would probably help too. I know when I was on assistance. I worked a part-time job. My assistance was adjusted but not so much that it wouldn't be worth it to work. I still made more than I would on assistance alone. I'm not sure if that's the same with assistance programs everywhere? There was also bonuses you could receive for work clothes/interview clothes and gas. As well as emergency bonuses for moving costs. Sometimes assistance programs offer more than they tell people. You have to inquire about it.



As far as medical bills go. We have universal healthcare and those on assistance in Ontario qualify for the trillium program to cover prescriptions/dental/eye care.

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