Shred the net, a little personal responsibility and some churches and charities

I apologize in advance for this rant, especially since I am trying to squeeze it into my work day but I really just need to get this off my chest.

I run a small but rapidly growing faith based community center, when I took over as the chief executive in 2008 we had a total client list of maybe 100 totals. Our work was primarily concentrated with very low income youth and their families in a specific area. In the past 4 years we have grown, last year we served over 400 individuals and our clients are no longer the usual very poor folks. Nope in the past two years we have seen families from neighboring towns and counties seeking assistance and while we strive to assist all, the reality is we are stretched.

So much so that a few months ago, I had to put my foot down despite the tightness of our organizational budget and demand that my salary be adjusted as well as that of my assistant. I was working  40 hours a week for 25 hours of pay with no benefits, I still have no benefits but I am actually now paid for all my time worked.  Now I spend most of my time looking for money to keep the doors open. The plight of my agency is that of thousands of other small and mid-size agencies in the US especially  those of us outside of major urban hubs where the social services agencies are asked to do as much as our counterparts in bigger cities on a fraction of the budget that most large  urban social service agencies have.

I was thinking about this last night as I turned on the TV and stumbled on to the Ed Show where I learned that Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan thinks that the social safety net in the US is too much. Instead of federal programs such as SNAP benefits, etc., Mr. Ryan thinks that churches and charities should pick up the slack.

You may not understand how absolutely comical that is to those of us in the social services sector. In my case as a faith based agency, it is doubly comical as we have seen church ministries reduce their giving to agencies like ours because frankly churches especially those of the non-mega church status simply don’t have the money to give.

At my agency for years, the bulk of our support came from area churches and their auxiliaries but in recent years, most of our church partners don’t have it to give. Instead we have turned to private foundations and even some government support to keep our doors open. Now even that money is harder to come by at a time when the need is greater than ever so we are now looking to the business community.

This brings up a conversation I had today with a local businessman about my agency. He told he thought that while the work my agency does is good, it seems a lot of the work is what used to be done in families and essentially he is a big believer in people taking personal responsibility. Needless to say, I think we won’t be receiving any support from his organization. Granted I have heard that argument before and I am sure I will hear it again and lucky for me my first career was in sales so hearing no is something I can live with.

The problem I have is how does a child take personal responsibility when they are born into a tough financial situation? A family takes responsibility by utilizing agencies such as mine but if no one gives money, eventually places like mine shut the doors. Thankfully my agency is in no danger of shutting down but our money pressures are real and as the chief executive, it’s my duty along with my board of directors to keep that money flowing by any means necessary.

In 2012, churches and charities cannot take care of all those in need, the money is simply not there and if the government says sorry we are cutting the net, are we simply saying some people are not entitled to having a meaningful life? Sorry it sucks to be you? Are we even prepared as a nation to see the fallout if all nets were suddenly removed? Let me tell you this is the shit that keeps me up at night and as I see Romney’s poll numbers shoot up, it frightens me to think where we could be in a few short years.

Anyway back to work, I gotta do the rain dance.

Note: I usually add links when referring to articles, etc. but I am writing this while on a lunch break, so I will add the links to the Ed show later tonight.



The two RR’s and a trip in the way way machine sans shoes

It’s that time…time to talk politics. I don’t get into politics too much in this space but with this being an election season and seeing what I am seeing this year in my work, I am very interested in the outcome of this year’s elections. Truth is I like Obama, even though he really isn’t from Chicago (hey, I am like Mainers, dude you gotta be born there to claim that status) and while he hasn’t done all that I had hoped he would, he is better than the alternative. Speaking of the alternative, ole Mittens announced his running mate, a nice looking wholesome all American cat straight from the heartland…Paul Ryan. Those two together look like something straight out of Central Casting, “Send me two all American white guys with good hair and strong faces.” Sadly the prospect of these two cats in charge of this nation, makes me want to pack my bags and move real fast!

On a side note, Paul Ryan is like 3 years older than me! When the hell did guys running for president or even vice president become only 3 years older than me? Ack!

Anyway Paul came out the gate today with a speech designed to rile folks up, the folks that are concerned about the direction this nation is going, folks who want to “take back their country”. Look, can I tell you something? When I hear language like “take back my country” I start to break out in a cold sweat, as a Black woman, going back in the way-way machine is not my idea of a good time.  Shit, the way-way machine of days long past is not a beautiful place for most of us, frankly the quality of life was questionable for anyone other than heterosexual white men.

Yet some of us look back nostalgically on the old days, and want to go back, never mind you won’t ever go back. See, the good jobs you used to have, don’t exist anymore, some guy in the third world does the job you used to do or else some machine does it and the robber barons have no intention of sharing any of their wealth with you, but they want you thinking that they will.

Anyway, Paul gave us a glimpse of what he thinks in his speech today:

“Janna and I tell Liza, Charlie and Sam that America is a place where, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.

We Americans look at one another’s success with pride, not resentment, because we know, as more Americans work hard, take risks, and succeed, more people will prosper, our communities will benefit, and individual lives will be improved and uplifted.

But America is more than just a place…it’s an idea.  It’s the only country founded on an idea.  Our rights come from nature and God, not government.  We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.

This idea is founded on the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise, self-determination and government by consent of the governed.”

Romney and Ryan say they are part of America’s Comeback Team and it seems the Comeback Team believes that hard work and playing by the rules is all you need to succeed….excuse me while I go roll around on the floor. Dude, I know plenty of people who worked hard and played by the rules and all they have to show for it, is shit and an early death if they are lucky. If you guys get elected, I am sure it will be even easier to die early.

Look, the truth is success in this country is about more than hard work, determination and playing by the rules. In most cases who you know is far more valuable than any of your hard work, hello! George W Bush anyone? It’s about connections more and more. Look at the student loan fiasco, while the focus has been on the millennials and their struggles, there is plenty of Gen X’ers who went to college, worked hard and while I am thankful for what I have, hell I will probably die owing that Sallie Mae bitch.

So who knows where this thing is gonna go, but if you think the stories I share about my work and shoeless kids is heartbreaking, I have no doubt in my mind that we all will be seeing shoeless kids if America’s Comeback Team starts running the show, might even be our kids without shoes.

PS: I need my rights to come from the government.