This election year, social programs are scrutinized and under threats of cutting budgets for programs that actually do help more people of substance. To illustrate this point, I will use myself as a specific example. (I am a person of substance.)
Sometime near 1980, all of my biological father’s bad business decisions and cocaine dealings/habit caught up with the needs of his expanded family. This caused (or encouraged) my mother to apply and employ the use of food stamps. I went with her to the office in Michigan*, and had to wait with her. I was too busy to notice what she actually did other than it was not a proud moment for her. She had to sign up again when we moved to a different state, naturally I was dragged along to further harden the shame of it all.
I quickly learned about what items the book of colorful paper coupons did and did not buy. Most notably on the non-food list were the staple food for her husband: beer and cigarettes-we never ran out of those, but ate a lot of beans and rice and government cheese in lieu of real food. I have ingested more no-name peanut butter and high-fructose syrup grape jelly on off-brand Wonderbread than the entire population of Sicily, Crete, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, and all of North Africa combined. Diabetes anyone?
(Yes, I have diabetes)
This continued over into grammar school with lunches and such. Since I was always a clever girl, I noticed on the forms for the school “free lunch” program included various income tables. According to the diagram my family’s income could have been $50,000 a year and we still would have qualified. That may sound like a lot of wishful thinking, but consider having a house full of hungry growing kids. Clothing was apparently a scarce commodity as I was always stuck in brother’s (now deceased) hand-me-downs based on closeness of age. Sure they weren’t my preferred gender, but they were always the quality of showing considerable wear. I did not get to pick anything to remotely express myself as the older kids did.
I noticed a lot of purchases made by my mother were not making it to my plate: shrimp, lobster, prime cut steak, bacon, Oreos, Chips Ahoy!, Ice cream, various sweets. When I simply inquired about something that “probably tasted good” having not even tried most of (not until age 15), I was told that “Oh you wouldn’t like it.” or “It tastes funny to children.” Really? Its like one of my friends had said “There always seems to be money for beer and cigarettes.”
Oh I was always ashamed for a couple dozens of years being a “free lunch” kid at school. As soon as I had semi-regular paid employment, I proudly paid for my own food, sometimes to the argument that “but wait, you don’t have to pay.” Eventually I ate off-campus in my car.
Fast forward a few years to moving to California:
I moved here because my other job cut my hours to 4 hours a week in the middle of January (that is the short story).
That part of the east coast was not all “trans” friendly, 8 months prior to this with a hasty eviction from my crazy roommate, I had been turned away from the Salvation Army women’s shelter by a man, after looking at my driver’s license and loudly proclaiming I was “A man.” I did at least inquire at the men’s shelter to which I would have involved multiple raping which I dare not subject myself to. Thanks for your hospitality Salvation Army! Stronzi!
Being on welfare for 8 months living in a homeless shelter was no picnic. I always got harassed at the welfare office. Yelled at, propositioned, threatened-oh and they would follow me out of the building too.
Not to mention the fact when you go, you always don’t seem to have enough paperwork, and an entire day is wasted getting a task that could be completed in an hour.
So to conclude this “welfare is SO glamorous” blog, consider if something being such a dolore nel culo (pain-in-the-ass) should ever be considered as an enjoyable free meal ticket. Then again, I was a white woman applying. The case workers know it, the entire lobby knew it. Culturally it may have seemed out of place, but as a tax payer and military veteran, that option should have been there.