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Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Yesterday I spent three hours in the welfare office.
I have begun the journey of getting food stamps. I officially filled out my application last week. I have heard from my fellow SC's that have also applied for food stamps, that the process is frustraing demoralizing exhausting and tedious.
They were proven right.

The packet I got in the e-mail told me to get to the welfare office by 11:00am to meet my case manager. 'DON'T BE LATE' was boldly printed across the top. So I got there at 10:40 am waited in line to tell them I was there and have them page my case worker to come get me. I sat down and waited and waited and waited. I was ironically sitting in front of a sign on one of the windows that reported on how it is important to wait and that when you really value something you wait and wait. So I did, patiently and respectfully. Then it was 1:30 and well I just couldn't wait anymore. There were a couple also sitting in the large room who had been there since 8:30am and I didn't want that to be my story. And I saw one person after another go into see their case managers. I got up and went to the customer service lady who, despite the fact that no one was waiting to speak to her, made me sign to ask her a question. I let her know that I had been waiting for a while and no one had come out. She told me to go wait in line again. So I did, waiting and waiting. We wait for things we value.

I get up to the line and let her know that I had been waiting and no one had come out. She told me she needed to check her records to make sure I had signed in early. I had. I told her my case manager and then the customer service woman who had told me to go wait in line turned around and said 'he's not in today.'

So I was told to wait while they figured out what was going on.

I was then pulled to the back by a woman who was ready to leave and in fact left before I even finished getting my stuff together. She told me that my case manager wasn't there and neither was the man who picks up his load. So I was told to leave my documents with the front desk. So I got in line to wait again. Then I handed the documents to be copied one by one. What should've been an easy task, take the paper I'm giving you, copy it, check it off on the list, turned into 20 minutes of 'you didn't give me that paper' 'yes I did' 'no you didn't' 'it's right there next to your arm' 'Oh I'm sorry.'

And then I left and that was my day. How can a system that so many people depend on be so horribly inefficient. I was lucky, I could still go home and get something to eat. But there were people there pleading for their cards because they didn't have food for their kids that night or medicine or they hadn't been able to get in contact with their case manager for weeks. I'm sure that these workers are overworked and undersupported but my gosh.

I have learned from that experience that their is a culture of poverty. You can't be patient, you can't expect that people have your best interest at heart, you can't expect that if you show up on a time anyone will give a damn. In fact you can't really expect that anyone will give a damn. People waste your time like it's their jobs. I wasn't mad, I was contemplative. Not discouraged but engaged with what can be done to make the lives of the poor lease burdened. But it was only the first step. It brings new insight into a recent article I read http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/02/us/02welfare.html?ref=politics.

In lighter news, it snowed. Here are some pictures from my hood:

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