Disillusioned Dreams and $100 Petty Cash!
The big G robbed the poor again. The State took from the ones who have next to nothing. Again! 100 lousy dollars! Yep; that's all I'm griping about; $100.00.
There's many questions rattling inside my head, and I think they need to be asked; Why take from the poor? How about taking a portion from the politicians working in Springfield and Chicago? How about the State paid prison guards and the Illinois State Police? How about the wealthy suits making a nice profit off Illinois? Why take from the weakest of the weak, the poorest of the poor and the most fragile of fragile? The people we're talking about are men and women who are older, or folk who have a physical or mental disability that makes them unable to work. Why take from them to dig yourself out of the financial hole you dug? These are the perpetual questions lingering, lingering, lingering in my confused mind.
Most people are probably unaware of what happened on July 1st, 2011. A small section of the population received $100 a month from our great State, and on that date, that small insignificant amount of income was callously taken away. Eligible people are those who are penniless 55+ year olds (General Assistance) and folk waiting their "disability benefits" determination (P3).
Now, I am very aware that some may read this and think; "hey man, that's my tax dollars! I'm paying for them, and a lot of these fellas spend my hard earned cash on stuff I disagree with, like crack, alcohol, lottery tickets, cigarettes, prostitutes and so forth! If they do that, they shouldn't get one measly penny".
I am not naive, I realize the legitimacy of those thoughts; that piddly $100 has been spent very unwisely, unethically and illegally by a few of it's recipients. But, I find it imperative to make these points; when we pay our taxes, our hard earned money goes into many things we are going to disagree with; it may be the wars, armament, certain beautification and tourist projects, the criminal justice system, public servants, government officials salaries and so forth. It could be so many things. Whether we politically lean to the right or left, we are all going to wish that our elected officials spent our tax dollars in different, and more appropriate, ways. It is also vitally important to remember; many plutocrats, oligarchs, state paid employees and Social Security (pension) beneficiaries grossly misuse their State paid paychecks also, spending their abundance of wealth on the very things we condemn the poor and homeless for doing; drugs, prostitutes, alcohol, gambling and so forth. In reality, $100 is a mere pittance compared to the thousands or millions that flow monthly through the pockets of this State's and country's elite!
My concern isn't if Governor Quinn unwisely, unethically or illegally spends his fortune, or if some unknown state trooper gambles every cent of her check away or if an elected official spends more money on drugs in one night, than all the residents of CCO combined. These aren't my concerns; they're going to do what they're going to do! My concern and question is plain and simple; why must we take from these poverty stricken, weak, fragile, sick individuals, and leave them with absolutely nothing, except for that lone Link Card?
$100! Some may think: "It's not much, so who cares. A person can't get housed on that, pay their bills or get their medications. A hundred dollars a month is just worthless pocket change with no purpose. It will not help someone survive."
Well, I disagree, $100 is an essential lump of cash to a homeless person. It is a means for a little bit of independence. I'm now going to introduce us to two homeless people who would also wholeheartedly disagree...
It was June. Carl and Dan were thick in the process of getting housed. They were tirelessly going to their appointments and meeting all their requirements. They had both qualified for subsidized housing, and at this time, they were just waiting to sign their leases, get their keys and complete a few insignificant details. They both received $100 from the government and knew they had just enough to afford their place. It was good and they were excited. The first week of July was going to be their time of moving out of homelessness! Hope was in the air.
Then a letter from IDHS came in the mail on June 28th. Yes, June 28th. It basically told them: due to the State's financial crisis, starting July 1st, they would no longer receive their small benefit. Carl and Dan know each other, but travel in different circles and have almost opposing personalities. This particular day, their similarity was that their hope rapidly transferred into new-found despair. As they individually came into my office with their government letters, tears welled up at the prospect of continued homelessness threatening their existence. I promised to do what I could do, to make their dreams a reality.
Like I mentioned, Carl and Dan have very different personalities, experiences and situations. Yet, their new dilemma was remarkably similar....
Dan was receiving GA, he is a man who struggles with no addictions, physical ailments or mental illness. He is a quiet guy who keeps to himself. Dan worked very hard all his life, until he lost his job in his late 50s. He actively looked for employment, but now his age has deemed him virtually unemployable. He is 61 and in the process of waiting until he is 62, when he can finally receive his Social Security pension. Meanwhile, Carl received P3. He also had a long history of working, but his stay at CCO was a roller-coaster of controversy, drama and emotion. He battles and is plagued daily with an alcohol addiction, physical limitations and a heavy mental illness. During his last few years, Carl has experienced a hip replacement, a couple heart attacks, extended stints in both a mental hospital for suicidal tendencies and an alcohol treatment center. He is ten years younger than Dan and is in the process of getting SSDI, which he easily qualifies for.
Dan and Carl received their housing through different methods and agencies. Dan awoke really early one morning (just after midnight) and lined up in the freezing cold. Hours later he filled out the application and in just over a year, his number finally came up. Carl met with a host of different case-managers, outreach workers, lawyers, mental health specialists and housing locators, yet it still took a couple years of appointments and a ton of effort for a door to finally open.
But after all that, would these housing opportunities remain available, despite losing their precious hundred bucks?
The answer is thankfully yes! But it does put these 2 men in a compromising position. Their rent is remarkably cheap, but it's something they can't afford. They're honest citizens, but ethical questions linger in their minds, like "shall I cash in my food-stamps to pay my rent?" They obviously don't want to be evicted just months after finally reaching their goals. We paid Dan's security deposit and first month's rent. The agency that helped Carl, financed him to move into his apartment. But every month, they have to find their little something out of nothing.
Carl and Dan are still housed without any major concerns. They get continued support from us and a few other agencies. They are both doing well and they don't have to cash in their food-stamps; they can buy their own food. People are rising up everywhere, from churches, agencies and other homeless folk, making their difficult lives just a little easier. Dan is still actively seeking employment and using as many of Uptown's resources as possible. Carl is still waiting for his SSDI, in fact they just denied him this past week because of a paperwork technicality. But that's another story and gripe for another time!
This State's callous maneuver has created within me even more disillusionment about the government, and how the "least of these" are trampled into the dirt by their big boots and excess money flow. That is nothing unusual; the Springfield and Washington governmental Gangsters are going to do whatever they please to satisfy their desires and their bank accounts. I can't change their decisions, they are too powerful and I am too weak. Yet, all those disillusioned dreams turn in hopeful aspirations when we look at Carl and Dan. We see the goodness of people helping, loving and supporting their fellow brothers and sisters. We see people resisting the harshness of governmental brutality and policy, by cloaking themselves with revolutionary love for their neighbor. We see people pressing on, creating something out of nothing. We see people representing God's Kingdom, right here on earth, bringing love, compassion and mercy into this unforgiving callous world.
When we live out the loving ethics of Jesus and His kingdom, we can echo the words of Isaiah: "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6 NASB)