Found Art: The Poor Helping the Poor

A conversation I had with a young female co-worker not yet out of college:

She: “So where do you live?”

Me: “Pleasant Street.”

She: “As in the one here in town?”

Me: “Yep, across the frog bridge.”

She (with a grimace): “Why would anyone want to live in Willimantic?”

Me: “Well, not all of us have other options. It’s not easy getting by in this line of work.”

She: “But don’t you have a Master’s degree?”

Me: “I do. And so does Suzanne. And Kristy. And Mike. And we make around $11 an hour.”

She: “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Welcome to the exciting world of social services. Our society has interesting priorities, doesn’t it? The helping professions are among the least paid, while bankers, athletes, and corporate CEOs are the highest. Among my co-workers the phrase “Have you found another job yet?” is almost a greeting it’s so common. Our clients (in my case, adults with addiction disorders and/or HIV) marvel at how well we know the ins and outs of SNAP, Husky, Medicaid, and HUD. Well, surprise! We’re utilizing the same support services to stay alive, too. We are an underclass of people who can barely take care of ourselves but trying to help others.

Unfortunately, it’s only getting worse. The Affordable Care Act crippled the non-profit sector. When small charities and social service non-profits, who are already seeing fewer donations and dwindling grant money, were told they had to provide health insurance to full-time employees, they did the only thing they could do: cut hours. Now it’s almost unheard of to find full-time positions, or even to get extra hours in a part-time job. Single-payer was the right choice, but our government was far too beholden to their plutocratic masters to consider it.

It’s no fun to break the chain of positive posts here on my blog, but I really want to make people aware of what’s happening to the social services and non-profit sector in America. We all recognize that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, but what we may not know is that the critical safety net that keeps our most vulnerable citizens from falling into oblivion is crumbling away. Without help for the poor and the sick, third-world poverty is not far off.

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