Abby's Road: How to win the war on welfare

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You say that you will not tolerate the abuse of welfare benefits.

What do you say to the elderly couple that agrees with you? The husband-and-wife team worked for decades at jobs they could do, and set aside savings they thought they could rely on. Now, they need help they cannot find.

Their Social Security checks are not enough. Their prescription medication is expensive, and their heating bill is high. So they wear an extra sweater, and then they take their pill, but they still haven’t eaten, or put gas in their car. Where is the employer interested in hiring a grandparent who cannot identify the hardware version of a mouse?

You say that every able-bodied welfare recipient should get off the couch and find a job.

What do you say to the single mother who agrees with you? She once lived under an actual roof. Now, she lives in a tent with her son, camping, but not by choice.

She wants a job. She wants a couch. She wants to know where to look, for either, or both. Where is the job within walking distance from her tent that will give her hours during the school day, or allow her to bring her son to work with her?

You say that entitlements will not undo the shackles of generational poverty.

What do you say to the grandfather who agrees with you? He is living through fatherhood on repeat, raising three grandchildren. Now, he has four mouths to feed, four bodies to clothe, four beds to keep warm, when he’d budgeted for only one.

Then he got cancer. He beat the disease, and his hair is growing back. His grandchild got a scholarship to attend college. Where does he go for confirmation he managed to beat the cycle of poverty?

Will you give him that confirmation even if he tells you that he got by with a little help from the government?

You say you are waging a war on welfare, but welfare is just a system. You can wage war on an idea, but you cannot ignore your casualties, the people living on the other side of principle. It takes a very small pebble to crack the windowpane separating welfare from the welfare recipient.

You say our collective funds should be spent properly, in a way that does not breed dependency and laziness. Of course that is true. Show me the reasonable person who disagrees with that.

You want us to distrust poor people because they are poor. You want us to be angry at all of them because some of them are not doing what they are supposed to. You want us to believe that the exceptions are swallowing the rule.

But you were poor, until someone trusted you enough to vouch for you, and give you work, and get you into college. You advertise Maine as fiercely protective of gun rights, even though some Mainers use guns to commit murder and other crimes.

You make exceptions for yourself, and for your supporters. Then you insist that the government has no place in helping the needy. You say it is the job of community organizations to fill the gap. You demand the village do more than just raise the children.

Here, finally, there is an answer: the Falmouth Food Pantry, a charitable organization that operates out of Falmouth, but serves a growing list of neighboring communities. Where it began with dozens of clients, it now services thousands. It provides food as well as a network of resources for assistance with housing, medical care and yes, job searches.

When a young man accepts the random temp job, and gives up nearly half of his hourly wage to the agency that placed him and the government that taxed him, the Food Pantry hosts him for Thanksgiving. When a young woman gets an interview, a Food Pantry volunteer finds her a suit. When summer approaches, the Food Pantry launches a fundraising campaign to buy breakfasts for the children who otherwise eat it at school.

That campaign is now in full swing. Please consider a donation. It’s even tax-deductible.

What do you say to that?

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Abby Diaz grew up in Falmouth and lives there again, because that’s how life works. She blogs at Follow Abby on Twitter: @AbbyDiaz1.