One shoe off

August 13, 2008

Ending poverty with 2 Benjamins.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liz @ 8:00 am
Tags: , ,

Her story: her husband was released from a psychiatric crisis facility in Texas, angry, violent and  more than just a little off balance. She steered clear, but then she got a call from her daughter. He was looking to kill her. So she ran in her Yukon, one of her brother’s best friends coming along as her “bodyguard,” and her miniature schnauzer.

She’s an RN, but had to leave her job in Texas when she ran. The hospital offered her a job, pending Oklahoma licensure. It’s not hard to transfer your nursing license from Texas to Oklahoma. Just fill out some paperwork and wait a little while. And pay $200. She doesn’t have it. And we don’t give it out anymore. Time was, you could go to our office for that … “supportive services” they called it. $200 to get a homeless DV survivor a well-paying, stable job … it’s not a gigantic price to pay. Why don’t we hand it out? Money reasons, mostly. For one thing, WIA programming is done by private contractors here in Oklahoma, and they’re always looking to maximize their funds. The other is a gigantic rescission. Congress tapped Oklahoma — and the other states, too, we were just particularly hard-hit — and basically said, “You know that money we sent you? Send it back.”

Just about every day I encounter people who would be o.k. if only they had that $200
to pay for their license so they could accept that job
to fix their car so they could get to work
to buy their meds so their bodies will work for them
to get a dental check up every once in awhile so they could keep their teeth
to get a new pair of glasses so they can see
to go to the doctor to get their back injury looked at
to buy the steel-toed boots that new job requires them to have
to pay the past-due phone bill so their service doesn’t get shut off, and they can get calls from employers.

At Josh’s wedding the father of the bride stood up and urged us all to “eat! eat!” because there was a lot of food and “While I’m sure the hungry children in Africa need it, we don’t have a way to get it to them.” Amy turned to me and whispered something about the hungry children in the U.S. that people always seem to forget about. It seems like those of us committed to ending poverty like to think big. We think about the systemic issues, we like to support policy changes and wide-scale programs. All important. But programs go away, and policy always has cracks. Cracks that are about $200 wide. Maybe the real way to end poverty is $200 at a time, one person at a time.

I can’t go around handing $200 to people at work. It’s against the rules or, believe me, I would have today. Instead I handed her phone numbers and addresses, knowing that I was likely sending her on several fools’ errands, driving around town using up what little gas she had, before finding someone who can help.

What was the last thing you spent $200 on?

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