discussion

Discussion one

1b. Is the criminalization of the homeless necessary?

Boise Idaho is one of the cities that are criminalizing the homeless. People are criminalized just for camping outside. The majority of cities do not have enough beds for the homeless. Some people have to live in the woods to avoid citations. Some shelters do not have the programs to get them off the streets (What Happens When Cities Make Homelessness a Crime: Hiding The Homeless, 2015). Palo Alto, California bans sleeping in cars. The results of criminalizing homelessness are staggering - 40% prohibit sleeping, 33% prohibit sitting, and 53% prohibit begging in public. (3 Sickening Ways America is Criminalizing Being Poor | Think Tank, 2014). Having stable housing first is the number 1 concern, then the other issues the homeless have can be addressed right after such as case management (Nowhere To Go But Jail? • OverCriminalized: Homelessness • BRAVE NEW FILMS: JUSTICE, 2014).

I do not think the criminalization of the homeless is necessary. Instead we should have programs that help them get them off the streets and integrate them back into society. They should not be put in jail just because they cannot afford a place to live; how fair is that?

1c. Provide 2 alternatives to criminalizing the homeless.

“The criminalization of homelessness refers to measures that prohibit life-sustaining activities such as sleeping/camping, eating, sitting, and/or asking for money/resources in public spaces. These ordinances include criminal penalties for violations of these acts” (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2018).

An alternative is to provide a safe housing environment then provide case management. They should address health and employment concerns right after providing immediate housing (HuffPost, 2017). 

Another alternative is to have a section of the city dedicated to them camping out, so they will not be criminalized for “being homeless” on the streets (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2018).

 

2b. Summarize the homeless problem in Seattle and how they can look to Rhode Island to save the lives of heroin addicts and save their city.

A man in the video describes the homelessness in Seattle ‘embarrassing’. People are angry and furious. It has the second highest amount of property crime in the nation. We see the seriously mentally ill in pain, eating trash and garbage from the trash cans. They are picking up needles and trash from the city. There are feces, rats, and needles throughout the city. Families are not wanting to go downtown anymore in fear of a victim of crime. Cops put the homeless in jail and do not get them meaningful help. Substance abuse disorder is common and half of them are mentally ill. The system is ineffective. People are fed up with it. There is a facebook page called Seattle Looks Like S**t. Cops are terrified of retaliation. Travis Berge uses amphetamines daily. He is on a list of criminal offences including assaulting police officers. And he seems ‘proud’ of that. He admits to stealing. He says, “I am having a blast!”. He thinks he has conquered the criminal justice system. Tood Weibke left the police force. He believes there is no morality. He was sick and tired of the way things were dealt with. Now he owns a horse ranch and lives a peaceful life after working for the force. He says if he had a family he would not for sure raise them in Seattle. People are affected by drugs such as heroin and meth. Millions are choosing homelessness because of drugs. We see people that are arrested, yet released the next day. A small amount of heroin is not needing to be prosecuted. What Seattle needs is intervention. 

Providence is a medium sized city of the small state of Rhode Island. MAT Program, medication assisted treatment, is used there. The first thing they do is enforce the laws. Inside the prison, they line up to take their meds such has methadone and suboxone that help them get off heroin. Codac distributes the medicine inside the prison. They have counselors and group meetings inside the prison as part of recovery. They say “the MAT system is a lifeline.” There is full drug treatment in the prisons in Rhode Island. 93% of the inmates released are following up with the program. Codac is throughout Rhode Island. Former inmates show up anytime anyday to get their medications. No questions asked no doctors needed. People are grateful they are arrested or else they will be dead or spend life in prison. Counseling continues 3 times a week. Everything is in one facility. This program saves lives. It works; it is the smart thing to do. The rate of overdose is much lower than Seattle. People are leading productive lives because of the Codac program. Enforcement and intervention is the key. Rhode Island has got it, but Seattle is dying (Seattle is Dying, 2019). 

 

3b. Should housing be considered a "human right"?

12,000 people do not have a permanent address in Milwaukee. Many organizations help people who are homeless, but people are still sleeping on buses, behind trash cans, abandoned houses, cars, etc. If you do not get to the shelter by 6:30 you do not get in. It is cold and people crying (Ferrara, 2011).

“Living is a human right,” a woman says (Wolfson, 2011). This equates to housing should be considered a human right. 

Jimmy Carter states, “To have a decent place to live is a basic human right. And also to have a chance to live in peace and to have adequate health care and adequate education, so you can take advantage of your talents” (Florida, 2017). I agree 100% with his statement. Our first priority is housing and in that we can live a prosperous life. It is an essential human need. It should be considered a human right. Evidence shows with stable housing students do better in school. They get better grades. They stay off the streets (Florida, 2017). Housing gives a sense of pride and self-respect as Jimmy puts it (Florida, 2017). It leads to a better life.

 

PART 2 -1a. List and describe at least 3 organizations your profile person could turn to for help in their situation (you will need to cite the actual organization and provide a url to their homepage).

I chose Profile #1 - Veterans

Social Security Disability Insurance as income due to his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It would help pay for housing or all. He can apply to low-income housing as well (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Social Security Disability, 2019). He can receive anywhere from $800-$1800 a month (Laurence, 2019).

For mental health counseling he can go to the Veteran Affairs Medical Center. They offer military sexual trauma counseling, readjustment counseling, bereavement counseling, and substance abuse assessment and referral (VA Mental Health Services, 2019).

For a job he can go to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Because of his disability, he is qualified. They help people with disabilities who want to work, but face a substantial barrier to finding or keeping a job. Along with that, they help build resumes, employment skills, and job search (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, n.d.)

Reference Page

Brave New Films (2014, October 9). Nowhere To Go But Jail? • OverCriminalized: Homelessness • BRAVE NEW FILMS: JUSTICE [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJf1o5G6HMY

 

Breakingtheset (2014, April 25). 3 Sickening Ways America is Criminalizing Being Poor | Think Tank [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLwHSzu_rTc

 

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dshs.wa.gov/office-of-the-secretary/division-vocational-rehabilitation

HuffPost (2017, December 7). This Critical Step Could Keep Homeless People With Mental Illness Off The Streets. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/housing-first-success-study_n_6809186?guccounter=1

 

KOMO News (2019, March 19). Seattle is Dying [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpAi70WWBlw

 

Laurence, Bethany (2019). How Much In Social Security Disability Benefits Can You Get? Retrieved from https://www.disabilitysecrets.com/how-much-in-ssd.html

 

Ferrara, Gene (2011, March 2). Milwaukee PBS. Homeless in the Heartland | Program | [VIdeo File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCHfB4aui9g

 

Florida, Richard (2017, July 27). Why Jimmy Carter Believes Housing is a Basic Right. Retrieved from https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/07/jimmy-carter-believes-housing-is-a-human-right/533973/

 

National Coalition for the Homeless (2018). Criminalization. Retrieved from http://nationalhomeless.org/issues/civil-rights/

 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Social Security Disability (2019). Retrieved from https://www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-and-social-security-disability

 

Todd Wolfson (2011). No Room at the Inn [Video File]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/175298754

 

VA Mental Health Services (2019, June 14). Retrieved from https://www.va.gov/health-care/health-needs-conditions/mental-health/

 

VICE News (2015, November 23). What Happens When Cities Make Homelessness a Crime [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYFeY2pS0ks

PART ONE:

1a.  Is the criminalization of the homeless necessary?

At first my answer to this question was an absolute no! Criminalizing homelessness is neither necessary nor morally acceptable. The National Coalition for the Homeless points out that many homeless criminalization measures often violate the homeless’ constitutional rights of free speech, of protection from unreasonable search and seizure, of protection of citizenship, due process, and equal protection (Criminalization 2018). Criminalization seems harsh, but it’s not so cut and dry. The Seattle is Dying video (KOMO News, 2019) showed the affect the homeless crisis is having on tourism. Long time business,es such as Karan Dannenberg Clothier, have had to move locations because conditions have gotten so bad. The video showed what happens when misdemeanors stopped being enforced and it showed a city losing good police officers because their hands are tied. It also gave examples of the healing that can happen when effective enforcement is combined with the right programs (KOMO News, 2019). In Los Angeles, diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid fever and hepatitis A are spreading like wildfire in areas where encampments aren't cleared out (Barrett, 2019). When considering criminalization, it’s necessary to consider what is compassionate for both the homeless and the communities affected by them, both short term and long term. Is a behavior legitimately harming the community or just “annoying it”. True criminal behavior, such as drug dealing, public harassment, theft, and destroying property should be treated more serious than panhandling, sharing food, sleeping on a park bench or sitting too long in a public space.

1b. Provide 2 alternatives to criminalizing the homeless.

Housing First vs Housing Ready. Providing stable housing for the homeless first and then addressing their needs as far as what brought them to homelessness and what it will take to get them permanently out is proving to be an effective way to reduce homelessness. It has been successful in cities throughout Canada, as well as in Utah, North Carolina and New Jersey (Byron, A. 2018). Housing Ready was the model that homeless had to meet certain criteria before receiving help with housing, such as being drug and alcohol free. Often this made getting help impossible. Housing Ready has a 40% success rate, while Housing Ready is about 80% effective (Byron, A. 2018). Housing First can be hard to implement, though, in a market with housing shortages. In the Bay Area, it would cost an estimated $12.7 billion to permanently house it’s homeless. That’s a cost of about $450,000 per unit. To provide services to even half of those housed would cost an additional $3.5 billion over 10 years. At the current rate of constructing permanent supporting housing, it would take 38 years to build enough housing for the homeless (Kendall, M. 2019). In the meantime, short-term solutions must be found.

Common Sense and Circumstance. In San Francisco, there are various laws on the books surrounding homelessness, but under new mayor London Breed, enforcement and citations are dependent on circumstances. Police officers won’t issue citations or confiscate tents if there is no shelter space available. This makes sense. Ticketing or even arresting someone when they have nowhere to go doesn’t. If there is shelter space or services available and a homeless person refuses to utilize services, they may receive a ticket or fine. In addition, sleeping outside may be allowed without citations, but tent encampments are broken up and the homeless must be willing to be mobile, so cycles of cleaning and sanitation can take place, protecting all involved from the types of diseases developing in LA (Thadani & Fracassa, 2019).

2.   According to the video, Seattle is Dying (KOMO News, 2019), the homeless problem in Seattle is really a drug problem. Almost all of the chronically homeless are guessed to be addicts. Sometimes the addictions caused the homelessness. Other times, homelessness came first and substance abuse was a way to cope with living on the streets. Either way, the addictions are sure indicators of remaining on the streets. Currently, there is virtually no criminal enforcement of drug related crimes among the homeless in Seattle. In Rhode Island, on the other hand, there is hard enforcement of drug related violations among the homeless, and everyone else. While serving time, addicts are given a chance to enroll in the MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) program. They are given opiate blockers proven to get people off heroin. Access and follow-up continue after they leave prison. It is saving lives and keeping people from going back on the streets. The program is one Seattle, and many American cities, can learn from.

3. Should housing be considered a “human right”?

I must admit, I struggle with calling housing a “human right” because the word “right” holds certain ambiguous connotations. While I want everyone to have a place to call home, is it a right to be demanded? Does the government need to provide housing to anyone who demands it? Here’s what I mean: traditionally a person who is able, works to have the necessary means to obtain food, clothing, and shelter. Extrinsic motivation. The do what they need to do. The necessity of obtaining these things motivates the work. There may be other intrinsic motivators; personal satisfaction and fulfillment, for example, but obtaining basic needs is a definite motivator. Those who are able should be working to provide for their own needs rather than expect it to be given to them. And what about evictions? If someone does not pay rent, should the landlord be financially “on-the-line?” They have mortgages to pay, and some landlords don’t have the financial flexibility to have months of unpaid rent without jeopardizing their own situation. With that said, I know there are outside circumstances, often beyond ones control, that prevent someone from working, or where working is not enough because pay is inadequate for housing, or physical conditions render someone unable to work. This is where housing programs and a safety net of help come in and housing needs should absolutely be taken care of. The UN declared housing a right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 The US signed it. The declaration was codified into treaty law in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966. The US signed it but did not ratify it so is not legally bound to uphold it’s purpose (Tars, 2016). Looking to countries, such as Scotland and France, who lead the world in the practical application of housing as a right, show what legislation enforcing this right might look like. This is the best article I have read on the subject and showing what practical application looks like, it addresses the ambiguousness of definition that make me hesitate calling housing a right: https://medium.com/@bendalessio17/housing-as-a-human-right-6b7ff91b42b5. It is long, so I won’t summarize it, but it is worth reading. D’Alessio makes a strong case for housing as a right with examples of how it is working well throughout the world.

PART 2:

1.  I chose the pregnant woman with a toddler child. She and her three-year old son escaped from her abusive ex-boyfriend. 

The first place I would look to for help when arriving in town would be a local church such as Valley Community Church in Pleasanton. (https://www.valleycommunity.church/) I say this because faith-based ministries provide 60 percent of emergency shelter spots in several major cities (Shellnutt, 2017). Even if they did not have the services to help me directly, they most likely could point me in the right direction as they would have knowledge of the support services available in the area. Most churches also have benevolent funds and an internal network of people to help individuals on case-by-case basis with specific needs.

 Shepherd’s Gate (https://www.shepherdsgate.org/) is a local women’s shelter that provides housing and services for women in this exact situation. Not only do they provide women and children a place to stay, they provide childcare, education, job training and job placement, along with parenting help and counseling services. This is exactly the types of services I would need.

Axis Community Health Pleasanton (https://www.freeclinics.com/det/ca_Axis_Community_Health_-_Pleasa) is a local federally funded health care center. They provide pregnancy care, immunizations, check-ups, medicine, and treatments, regardless of insurance. I would try here for needed medical help during the pregnancy.

2.   This would be an incredibly hard situation to be in. In addition to being on my own with a toddler, the pregnancy would make things even more difficult. I imagine there would be a sense of relief of having escaped the abuse and making it to a safe place, but at the same time, a sense of hopelessness and fear at not having a place to live and not knowing what comes next. Without help, it would be impossible to get back on my feet. Thankfully, with services, like those listed above, a fresh start is a real possibility.

 

REFERENCE

 

Barrett, J. (25 June, 2019). Watch: How dangerous is the LA Homeless Problem? This Dangerous. Retrieved from: https://www.dailywire.com/news/48852/watch-how-dangerous-la-homeless-problem-dangerous-james-barrett

 

Byron, A. (15 May, 2018). Can Utah’s Approach to Homelessness Work Everywhere? Retrieved from: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/5/14/can-utahs-approach-to-homelessness-work-everywhere

 

Criminalization. (2018). National Coalition for the Homeless. Retrieved from: http://nationalhomeless.org/issues/civil-rights/

 

Kendall, M. (10, April, 2019). How much would it cost to house the Bay Area homeless? Try $12.7 billion. The Mercury News. Retrieved from: https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/04/10/how-much-would-it-cost-to-house-the-bay-areas-homeless-try-12-7-billion/

 

KOMO News. (19 March, 2019). Seattle is Dying. [video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpAi70WWBlw

 

Shellnutt, K. (06, March 2017). Why a Christian Approach to Fighting Homelessness Pays Off. CT. Retrieved from: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/march/christian-approach-fighting-homelessness-pays-off-baylor.html

 

Tars, E. (2016). Housing as a Human Right. The National Low Income Housing Coalition. Retrieved from: https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/2016AG_Chapter_1-6.pdf

 

Thadani, T. & Fracassa, D. (28 February, 2019). There are fewer tent encampments in SF—but some neighborhoods still overwhelmed by homelessness. The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved from: https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/There-are-fewer-tent-encampments-in-SF-but-13651264.php#photo-16995813

 

Discussion two

1.     What’s so depressing about getting free money from the government? It sounds like a great deal, doesn’t it? Does welfare help or hurt families?

This is a difficult and broad question to interpret. The initial program reminds me of the concept of a universal wage, which basically states that everyone is entitled to a set amount of money that would cover their lodging, utilities, and food per year. I’m repeating these concepts from memory, so forgive any discrepancies. I believe the figure came out to around $14,500, which is remarkably close to actual welfare wages. I’m digressing here a bit, but I’m going somewhere with this, I promise. The idea was to provide a safety net that a family could build their lives from and stay out of poverty. Of course, the system was abused, and the outliers became the poster children for welfare recipients. This stereotype likely had what’s referred to as a “labeling effect,” where the individual behaves according to their social label, in which recipients slowly began to imbue the roles that society had labeled them with. Free money is addictive, especially considering what we watched happen with Barbie in the film A Place at the Table (Silverbush, 2013). She made roughly the same whether she worked or not. Back to the original question. Does welfare help or hurt families? I’d propose we ask instead “which families does welfare help and which does it hurt?” It hurts families where there is no ambition or belief that making their lives better is possible by creating a scenario of learned helplessness. It helps families that have been struck by circumstance and need a stabilizing agent to rebuild upon.

I’m going on another tangent here, so I might lose some points. In addition to asking if welfare helps or hurts families we might also ask “does corporate welfare help or hurt America. After researching the figures, I found that corporate welfare costs America between 1.3 and 3.1 TRILLION dollars every year. Using the low estimate that equates to $3,940 per every single individual in the United States, or $33,333.33 for every single individual considered to be in poverty. Keep in mind this is the money that company’s save by shifting their operations to tax haven countries. The poor’s use of welfare is insignificant in contrast with the 1%’s tax loophole strategies when it comes to hurting the country.

 

2a.Find the specific TANF regulations for your particular state you live in regarding each of the 4 factors:

(a) Income Eligibility

According to Congressional Research Services the maximum income to a single parent with two children in Washington State is $936 with numerous asset limitations, $1000 in savings and a vehicle valued at $5000 or less(TANF, 2018).

(b) Work Activities

Workfirst/Worksource requirements vary depending on the circumstance. There’s six categories of activities for situations ranging for having an infant at home, to being a single parent to a child requiring daycare. For a typical adult seeking employment with a child in daycare the requirement is to pursue WorkSource activities between 32-40 hours a week.

(c) Time Limits

There is a 5 year, 60 month time limit for TANF benefits. This can be extended on a case by case scenario.

(d) Family Caps

There’s no family cap in Washington State, there are income limits though.

2.     What are the pros and cons of each of the TANF requirements?

Income eligibility: The pros would be that many people that make money would be excluded from the program. The cons go hand-in-hand with the pros in that the income eligibility is ludicrously low at $936/month. So basically, if you make enough for your rent payment you’re excluded.

Work Activities: The pros would be that one is required to participate in WorkSource activities between 32-40 hours a week. During this time they’ll be able to receive childcare. The cons would be that transportation to the WorkSource center or daycare aren’t provided. The activities are often vague in description and aside from occasional workshops consist of looking online for jobs for 7-8 hours a day.

Time Limits: The pro here is that 5 years is ample time to change course in life. In conjunction with attending community or online college online part time at night it’s feasible that one could change the course of their life. The cons, as far as I can see, are that someone could fall into a loop of doing the minimum to receive assistance but sabotaging their efforts due to a lack of will or perhaps substance abuse.

Family Caps: Washington State has no family cap, which is certainly a pro for many larger families that have hit hard times. The con would be that certain demographics of the population, ie. substance abusers, might abuse the system.

 

2 (a) Report on how many days you lasted playing the SPENT game and discuss how well you managed your money on a very low wage.

I managed to make it 8 days. I felt this was realistic, but omitted the use of resources like SNAP, and food and clothing banks for support. I know they shouldn’t be factored in as a way of life. I went with the middle health care plan, but if I were to play again I would opt out entirely and use CHAS (Community health and services) as my health care option. The game also omitted any family resources that could help watch kids so that other sources of income could be sought out.

3 (b) What were the reasons the 4 family's from the movie fell into the money lending trap? What other alternatives do they have besides turning to this vicious debt cycle? Justin and Brittany fell into the credit trap by not having access to a traditional bank and using check cashing services. This prevented them, him in particular, from establishing a good enough credit score to purchase a home. I feel that he should have opened an account at a credit union and deposited 5-10 dollars a week until he didn’t need to use a check cashing service. Also, almost anyone can get a gas card which has a maximum amount of $250 usually. That would have helped him establish credit.

Debbie: Debbie lacked the investment capital and credit. to take her business to the level she wanted to. I’m a little irritated here because it’s the most common mistake entrepreneurs make, they try to be their own company entirely. They mentioned she could only get a secured credit card for $250 dollars, and I know full well that many banks will allow you to get a secured credit card for almost as much as you like. In my opinion she should have gradually grown her business online doing pieces one at a time. This would have prevented her from having to front the money for the purses and created a model of guaranteed sales instead of having her merchandise spread around town waiting for a payout.

Alex and Melissa: My heart genuinely broke for this couple because they were dealt a very difficult hand. They fell victim to the payday loan trap out of desperation like many others. There was no mention of help from family or friends. It’s difficult for me to come up with alternatives because I don’t know their circumstances. Was Alex on disability? Perhaps he could give music lessons or do tuning as a side hustle?

Tiffany: She fell victim to doing everything right and assuming that what “they said” would work did. Again, it’s hard for me to say what she should have done. If I were in her circumstances, and this is only me, I would have had a direct and open conversation with her daughter about what had to be done financially. The nationwide average for private education is $8,918 per year. That would have paid for what she received for her car by 178%. I grew up watching my mother make poor financial choices from a lack of options and subsequently my siblings and I grew up with a sense of constant foreboding. We would have gladly made concessions if we knew the situation. Tiffany could have also applied to be paid for being her mother’s caregiver. This would have brought in some additional income while she was at home and prevented her from dipping into her 401K and paying the withdrawal penalty fees. There’s also many scholarships and subsidies available for her daughters schooling so that she wouldn’t have to compromise.

Washington state has payday loan regulations that have severely limited the damage that they can do. Title loans are extremely dangerous as well because that car is your main source of income. I feel that Debbie should have pursued some mentorship regarding bringing her dream to life instead of doing it on her own. Justin and Brittany should have modified their dream’s timeline and found a better plan to make it a reality. There’s many not for profit financial planning agencies that’s sole purpose is to help people get where they want to go.

7a.  What suggestions would you have for policy makers in regards to "reforming" the TANF reform programs?  

I have two main issues regarding this system. The first is that it’s set up to get people into jobs, instead of helping them to find sustainable employment at a living wage. There should be better incentives for the individual to pursue education as an alternative to WorkSource activities. Many of WorkSource activities aren’t geared toward helping individuals find careers. Most of the jobs found through WorkSource are entry level positions that put the individual in Barbie’s situation. The other large problem that I have is with their education stance. College can count towards a WorkSource activity as long as you’re enrolled full-time. The problem is that being enrolled full-time online doesn’t count. You must actually attend school on campus. This isn’t possible for a huge percentage of people due to geographic locations. Policy makers should address what the individual is doing to improve their education and circumstance subsidize them accordingly.         

7b. How would you fix "the system?"

            Provide better support for those in college and seeking to improve themselves. Dramatically limit the interest rates title loan and payday loan businesses can charge. Create a weaning period for assistance after employment has been found to create greater financial stability for the individual. Perhaps create a tax sendoff credit for individuals where they receive an extra $1-2K after being off assistance and having found employment for the two years of being off assistance.

 

References:

1.2 Required Participation. (2018, April 09). Retrieved from https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/chapter-1-engaging-parents-workfirst/12-required-participation

Express, A. (2014, June 04). Spent: Looking For Change (Full Documentary) | American Express. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTd9Z2nCjM0

Horsley, S. (2015, March 26). Payday Loans - And Endless Cycles Of Debt - Targeted By Federal Watchdog. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2015/03/26/395421117/payday-loans-and-endless-cycles-of-debt-targeted-by-federal-watchdog

http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/welfare-reform-family-cap-policies.aspx

Silverbush, L., Jacobson, K., Skoll, J., Weyermann, D., Lurie, C. W., Lurie, J., Colicchio, T., ... Magnolia Home Entertainment (Firm),. (2013). A Place at the Table.

SPENT. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.playspent.org/

WELCOME TO WorkSource WASHINGTON. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://worksourcewa.com/

1b.  I don’t believe there is anything depressing about getting free money from the government, it does sound like a great idea. We *are* the government. As citizens we elect and re-elect our government at local, state, and federal levels. The money spent is our money, from our taxes. I would much rather that money be used to help my fellow citizens as individuals to better their and their children’s lives then to bail out a bank that played fast and loose with the rules or to fight a war overseas that isn’t a humanitarian necessity. There is evidence to show that giving people money to help with their basic needs can have a generational impact, that the advantages it gives those children help them be more productive as adults (Thompson 2018).  Welfare does not hurt families but does help them. Even if they choose to limit their work to remain on assistance, they tend to use that opportunity to continue their education or look for a better job (Thompson 2018). Medical assistance is particularly useful in helping families long-term since kids who get better medical care grow up to be adults who need less help (Thompson 2018). 

 

2. The Temporary Cash Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) regulations for Washington state (Washington 2019) are: 

(a) Income Eligibility: Must have resources of $1000 or less, this includes 

checking and savings accounts,  

stocks, bonds or mutual funds 

equity in a vehicle over $5000 

If a family member starts working than 50% of their earnings are subtracted from the TANF amount. 

If a family member starts getting unemployment or other unearned income 100% of those earnings is subtracted from the TANF amount. 

(b) Work Activities 

May be required to participate in the WorkFirst Program 

Must do all required job search and work preparation activities 

(c) Time Limits:  

There is a lifetime maximum of 60 months of TANF assistance, unless a person qualifies for a time limit extension. 

(d) Family Caps: 

There is no dollar amount for a family cap listed but the 60-month maximum benefit limit does apply to everyone in the family individually. 

 

What are the pros and cons of each of the 4 TANF requirements?  

(a) The pros of an income eligibility limit are that it ensures the available funds go to those who most need them, and they help prevent people from hiding assets that could be used to help themselves such as selling stocks or bonds. The cons are that the amount of $1000 is laughably low for a work program. People should be able to get help finding work or better work before they are basically flat broke. The $5000 equity limit in a vehicle is also a bad idea. Having to sell a reliable car just because you could get more than $5000 for it doesn’t help anyone. That money would go very fast supporting a family and leave you with either no reliable transportation or a different car that may need more than your assistance pays in repairs on a regular basis. In the US there are very few cities with bus service that is reliable and useful to a single person, let alone the needs of a family. 

 

(b) The pros of required work activities are that they may help a person get work experience or connections that help them find a better job in the future and it helps keep people who are against assistance programs from being able to correctly call the person a freeloader or other derogative term. One con is that the requirements for participation in some work activity programs can cost more than the benefits the family is getting out of them due to the time and travel costs of participation. Also, the provided training may not be of any use to the person for the types of jobs they are looking for. These programs can be time intensive, expensive to travel to and from, and demeaning or disheartening to the participant.  

 

(c) The pros of time limits are that they provide an ending date for the assistance that is known up front by the recipient so they can plan accordingly and, as with required work activities, they can head off nay-sayers concerns about people receiving hand-outs long term. The cons of time limits are that they are a one size fits all regulation for a program that needs to help a huge variety of family situations and requirements and that the looming deadline adds more stress to the families who are already struggling and over-stressed. 

 

3. I lasted 23 days in spent (Spent 2019). I think I managed my money reasonably well given the choices in the game. Having been in that kind of situation before there were several times that I would have made a choice different than either offered option, but I think that is by design to make their point. It seemed odd to me that there were no ways to make a payment arrangement for some of the choices. My car slid on ice and hit a parked car and the choices were to drive away or pay in full. In reaI life, I would have worked out a payment arrangement of some kind with either the owner or the repair shop since I didn’t have enough to pay the bill all at once. The questions about school lunches and ice cream trucks weren’t hard to say no to. The school lunch simply had to be my choice, and the ice cream was an easy no. There are usually other things you can offer to kids when saying no that they can be happy about and you don’t have to spend money on, like a trip to a park, making a treat at home together with you have on hand, or a sleepover with a friend. 

 

4.(b) For Melissa and Alex the reasons for their falling into the money lending trap were both medical issues, their son’sautism and Alex’s MS diagnosis (American 6:10-6:26). These were huge medical expenses the family didn’t have savingsto cover. Alex couldn’t work anymore so they began using overdraft protection to cover bad checks, which led to them losing their bank account and eventually going cash only (American 11:20-11:32). The medical exam needed for their son to be sure the programs he got into matched his needs cost $2500, and with no other way to cover it they turned used a money lending place (American 22:20-22:55). With the two serious medical issues they had to deal with, I can’t think of other things this family could have done differently. 

 

Justin had gotten into financial trouble with credit cards early on in life when he didn’t have any guidance into how to use them and that left him with a bad credit score and no access to traditional banking (American 3:12-3:47, 16:50-17:15). Things he could do instead of using money lending to get what he wants would include stop trying to buy a house and just stay with an apartment. Or he could start by trying to buy a condo to build credit and earn equity and then move to a house later. He still hasn’t learned that he needs to aim smaller until his finances are rebuilt and stable. 

 

Tiffany was doing well until her mom got cancer and Tiffany stopped working and lived off her savings in order to care for her mom (American 6:48-7:02). She ran out of savings and turned to car title loans even though she could only find part time work that doesn’t cover her bills (American 21:01-21:15). One thing she could have done to help her situation would have been to move her daughter from private to public school when she quit work. She was a very involved parent and spent a lot of time helping her daughter learn so it would probably have worked out well enough and would have slowed the drain of money from her savings.  

 

Debbie had used student loans to get through college and doing that weakened her credit since she was young and didn’t have a good debt to income ratio (American 14:40-14:44). She paid for things as she went and didn’t use loans or creditcards so her credit score didn’t improve enough for her to qualify for traditional or safer loans to try and build her business(American 14:07-14:28). She might have been able to continue her business if she had moved it to a smaller, cheaper store location or done a virtual store online instead of paying to maintain a storefront. Even after her financial issues she may have been able to make items at home and sell them to local shops for resell until she became more financially stable. 

 

5.  I think the best way to reform my state’s TANF program is to get rid of it and all other state programs and roll them all into a nationwide program that covers everyone, regardless of their earned income, with a basic income and national health care system. The lack of federal oversite for TANF (Germanis 2015) means that there can be inconsistencies and inequalities in the requirements and benefits between people in the same country but different states. It also means each state spends money on its own special program instead of all states being able to follow a national program with less overhead, leaving more money to help people with. 

References: 

American Express. June 4, 2014. “Spent: Looking for Change”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTd9Z2nCjM0accessed on June 26, 2019. 

 

Germanis, Peter. July 25, 2015. “TANF is Broken! It’s Time to Reform “Welfare Reform”. Accessed viahttp://mlwiseman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/TANF-is-Broken.072515.pdf 

 

“Spent”. http://www.playspent.org/ . Accessed on June 27, 2019. 

 

Thompson, Derek. March 8, 2018. “Busting the Myth of ‘Welfare Makes People Lazy’. The Atlantic. Accessed viahttps://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/03/welfare-childhood/555119/ 

 

Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. “TANF and Support Services”.https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/tanf-and-support-services. Accessed on June 27, 2019.