Reblogged: The Face of Poverty

Reblogged from:
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The Face of Poverty

Picture yourself a single or divorced mother. You are more likely to be white than black. You and your children live in rural poverty, on an army base, or in what is now politely known as the “inner city”.

You work outside the home, in a full or part-time job (sometimes two). Since you have no more than a high school diploma, you are limited to minimum wage, blue and pink collar jobs. Never mind that you grew up in poverty, yourself.

Childcare is an ongoing challenge, sometimes costing you jobs. When a child is sick, you miss work. Child support is little more than a fantasy.

Poverty and all it entails is a recognized cause of chronic health problems. You may already be suffering from depression or heart disease. Your children still have their dreams. They, also, have asthma.

There are government programs that should be of help to you. Welfare, Food Stamps, and others. These require that you set any remaining pride aside, and wait hours on a phone, a website, or a line. You do that gladly (and repeatedly), to no avail.

One agency takes the position you are another’s responsibility. A third unaccountably closes its file, sending you back to the beginning.

So on and so on. Bureaucratic errors and delays bring you to tears. You fear you may snap.

Your children have had little stability in their lives, apart from you. Unfortunately, you (and they) have more than once been evicted.

This is not the result of a cavalier attitude on your part toward finance.

To the contrary, you stretch your meager income as far as possible to meet expenses. Since there are never enough funds to go around, you pay bills in part, in alternate months, or allow them to go into collection. This applies to rent, as well.

Evicted and without savings, you sleep on a friend’s couch, effectively homeless. Your children may have to change schools again; may have lost their meager belongings to a lockout by the landlord.

Public housing is not an available alternative. The waiting list for subsidized housing in your state may be years long. Such housing is often dilapidated; the crime rate there, astronomical. Ceilings leak, toilets function only occasionally. Gunshots can be heard in the halls.

Younger children eat before older ones. You eat last, if there is any food remaining. More often than not, the refrigerator stands empty.

This is the face of poverty.  It is not the image any of us would choose for Thanksgiving. But it is the face of America as surely as that of Lady Liberty or Uncle Sam.  As we sit around our holiday tables, the rest of us would do well to remember that.

Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty…and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me’ ” (Matt. 25: 44-45).

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com

Hookers – 26 November 2013

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womanbox

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26 November 2013

Joy was surrounded by packages.  I asked, “Have you been Christmas shopping?”

” A lady brought me some winter boots.  She said, ‘I hope you don’t mind, they’re used.’  I said, “Thanks, I don’t care if they’re used. I only care if they keep my feet warm.’ I looked at them. “They’re in good shape and they have felt liners. These will keep you really warm.”

Joy was looking at a hole in her woolen glove. “That reminds me,” I said, ” I found a pair of winter gloves on the bus. They’re too small for me. Try them on.”

“They fit great, thanks! Jacques brought this little fake Christmas tree. I asked him if he was coming down tomorrow. He said, ‘Tomorrow, haven’t you heard? There is going to be a big snowstorm.  Me, I’m going home to hide until it’s over.’ So, I wont be leaving home either, but I’ll be here most mornings. I need money for Christmas.”

I asked, “Were you able to contact your worker? Did he bring over some groceries?”

“No, he said he’d been busy. I said to him, ‘You’re not the only one in the office, couldn’t you have sent somebody over with a bag of groceries?’ He said he’d try to get over today. I must have lost twenty pounds in the past three weeks.

“I hope I get my check before the end of the month, because my worker said he’d help me get a futon. They have the metal ones on sale at Crappy Tire for a hundred and twenty-nine. If I don’t get my check in time I miss out.

I said, “I guess this is the day that Big Jake gets out. How do you feel about that?”

“I don’t know what’s happening. He hasn’t answered my letters. Maybe he’s been revoked. In that case he’ll be getting out in January. That will be the full term of his sentence. I hope he doesn’t get out today. I guess it’s mean of me to say that, but I’ve just got too much to deal with now.

“For all I know he’ll be waiting at my place when I get home.”

“That’ll be a parole violation, won’t it?”

“Yep.”

“And he’ll get sent back to prison, just like last time,  right?”

“That’s right. It’s his problem. I don’t care what happens.

“I need to get some Orajel. I’ve got  an ear infection. The pain goes right down to my jaw. I’m trying to keep my mouth closed, because the cold air makes the pain worse.”

“Can you go to your doctor? It sounds like you need antibiotics.”

“I guess I could go to my old doctor without my Health Card.  I don’t really like him, because he’s a turban-head.”

I said, “He’ll only be looking in your ear.  Are you expecting him to say, ‘Okay, take off all your clothes and I’ll have a look at your ear.’

“No,  I don’t expect him to say anything like that.”

“A lot of doctors have been charged with sexual misconduct. One of my former doctors lost his licence to practice because of that.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard.

“My neighbors upstairs have been going at it again. First, she came home and was banging around. That lasted until about eleven. My head was just splitting by then. He must have started a new shift, because he started banging around at about four this morning. I like it  when Hawk comes over with Dillinger. When he hear a noise he starts barking. They’ve seen Dillinger and know enough not to get him riled.”

“How is Mariah?”

“Same old, same old. She has her problems. I was up to see her yesterday. She’s okay.”

I said, Chuck Senior was telling me stories about the old Alexandra Hotel.  He used to be a busboy there. He said there are all kinds of tunnels running under Bank Street. There was one from the kitchen of the Alexandra to the McLaren Apartments, down the block.”

“I remember the McLaren Apartments, on Bank and McLaren. That’s where Jacques use to live. They tore it down. It’s a high-rise with the housing department in it.”

“Chuck was saying that hookers would go from the Alexandra to meet their clients at the Mclaren. Everything was below ground, complete privacy. They’d also have their beer delivered through the tunnel.”

“That sounds neat. I think that was before my time. I’ve only been here since ninety-three.”

I checked my watch. It was ten minutes to nine. I said, “I’ll have to get going. Do you think anyone will be up at the park at noon?’

Joy said, “I think it’s too cold. I’m going straight home to bed.”

As I walked to work, I stopped to talk to Chuck, “Hi, I don’t have time to talk, but I wanted to say merry Christmas,  if I don’t see you before them.”

“Thanks, but I should be here a few times before that, depending on the weather. I won’t be here tomorrow.”

“Take care, Chuck.”

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By Tony Roberts

SHARING “DELIGHT IN DISORDER”

 

book cover 1

Having served in ministry with
madness, I now have a mission.
And I can use your help.

 

Help me share Delight in Disorder with the world.

Delight in Disorder is a resource we have long needed.
We all need to hear from people who have struggled with mental illness
and have found, indeed, that nothing can separate us from God’s great
and redeeming love. This book is honest about the experience of living
with bipolar disorder, and it’s full of compassion toward the many people
whose own moods betray them so treacherously. It’s also full of hope—
not the cheap kind we use to varnish over the truth about ourselves and
about this life we live. But the only kind of hope that can stand when
everything else falls: hope in Christ and his grace.
Amy Simpson— Author,
Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission

We are on a mission to share the hope of Christ with people who,like me wrestle
with mental illness.  Our mission is also to foster the compassion of Christ within
the faith community towards those that have often been like bruised reeds broken
by false accusations and wrongful judgments.

To find out more about our mission and, as the Spirit leads, offer your support,
go to our indiegogo site by clicking on the following link –

May you be blessed as you are a blessing,
Tony Roberts

Joy Returns – 22 November 2013

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womanbox

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22 November 2013

As Metro was handing out newspapers, he shouted to me, “I saw her this morning.  I don’t know if she’s still there.”

“Thanks Metro.”

Sure enough, after being away for two weeks, Joy was sitting at her usual spot.

“Hi, did ya miss me?”

“Of course I did,” I said, “I’ve been talking most mornings to Chuck. He sure has a lot of stories to tell.”

“Do you mean Fat Chuck, Roly Poly?”

“Is that what you call him?”

“Yeah, I give names to everybody.”

“No I meant his dad, in the wheelchair.”

“Oh, Chuck Senior! Yeah, get him started and he never shuts up. He’s a good guy.”

“I’ve been feeling sick this past while. I was in hospital. The good thing is they got all my meds up to date and I have prescription refills for four months. I haven’t had a drink in three weeks.”

I asked, “Does that cover your epilepsy, fibromyalgia and your bipolar disorder?”

“Yeah, all of that stuff and my antipsychotics.”

I said, “So, I guess Big Jake gets out next Tuesday.  How do you feel about that?”

“I don’t know what’s going on. He hasn’t written. I wrote him a long letter a while ago  and a one-pager about two weeks ago,  saying, ‘What the fuck is going on! Answer my letters!’ He may be pissed off about some of the things I wrote, but it’s his problem not mine. He has to work on getting the restraining order lifted. I’ve done all I can. They won’t deliver his electric wheelchair to my place, because I don’t have a ramp or other wheelchair access.  If he left it outside, he’d have to bring the battery in every night to recharge it. He’d need a lock,  so it wouldn’t get stolen, and he’d need a cover. I don’t even know if he’s getting out on Tuesday, because of the parole violations. His parole officer is a real dickhead — he won’t let anything slide. Three days after they found out Jake was at my place, he was back in prison.”

I asked, “If he doesn’t go to your place does he have somewhere else to go? Will he stay with Rodney the Rodent?”

“I don’t think that he and Rodent are friends any more. I told Jake a few things to check out. Rodent isn’t everything people think he is.  He lied about his prison time; he lied about being affiliated with any gangs. I think he’s a pedophile. For sure he’s gay. One time he had a big wad of twenty-dollar bills. He gave them to all the guys, none of the women. Does that tell you something?

“I don’t care what he does. I’ve got my papers in for assisted housing. I’m near the top of the list, because of my mental state, and because of my history of being physically abused.”

I said, “I heard that Hippo got some money.”

‘Yeah, two thousand bucks. He spent it in two weeks. Every day he’d come over to my place and drink at least three twenty-sixes of vodka. Mariah liked that. He’d also be drinking sherry. He phoned his mom and told her he had some money to give her for taking care of him, but he spent it before he got there.

“He took taxis everywhere, even out to Almonte to visit his mom. She found him upside down on their roof, drunk out of his head, scooping leaves out of the rain gutter.

“How is Mariah?”

“She’s okay, except for the bloating. She was walking all humped over because of stomach cramps. The pain was really bad.  I think she has Crohn’s disease, or some stomach or bowel ailment like that. She goes to her doctor for regular physical exams, colonoscopies, endoscopies, blood tests and  X-rays.  My sister had that and had to get her large intestine removed.

“I’ve only collected seven bucks today and I’ve got no food in the house –maybe a few scraps of bread.”

“I phoned my worker yesterday and left a message for him to bring me some groceries.  I haven’t heard back from him on that. I’m still waiting to get a futon — one of those metal ones that fold up into a couch. They brought a wood one with some of the slats broken and the mattress was black around the edges. You know what that is — bed bugs. Some of the blood spills out of them after they feed and you know what color blood turns to when it scabs up — black.  There was no way that was coming into my place. I think they sell them at Crappy Tire for a hundred and twenty-nine bucks. If it’s metal there’s not so much chance that Jake will break it when he sits down.

“On the bus this morning, I was sitting in one of the bench seats at the front. I was at one end and this big, fat woman plops herself down at the other end. It nearly sent me flying. I said to her, “Holy fuck, will you take it easy! You’re going to hurt someone doing that, namely me.”

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Beer Tunnel – 21 November 2013

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“Hi, Dennis,” said Chuck, “Chilly this morning. Do you have the time?” I showed him my watch. ” Twenty to nine. I’m only going to stay another ten minutes. I’ve collected enough for a pizza. After that I’ve got some groceries to pick up. I made my beef stew last night. It was delicious, but I put in too many spices — three Oxo packets. Next time, I’ll only use two. I had the farts all night.

I said, “Yesterday you were telling me all the interesting things that happened when you worked at National Defense. Do you have any more of those stories?”

“No, I told you all the interesting stuff, the rest was drudgery. I had another job as bell boy at the Alexandra Hotel. I sure learned a lot there. It used to be on the north-west corner of Bank at Gilmour.  In its hey-day, it was one of the best hotels in the city. It was called the Alex, and was known primarily for cheap draft at the Leprechaun Lounge. It ended up as a strip joint.  It was disgusting, they hired girls as young as twelve years old to work as strippers. In the late 1970’s  it was declared a heritage site and torched to make room for new development.  I don’t know what’s there now — some high-rise.

“There is a maze of tunnels, called the Beer Tunnels under Bank Street. All  the businesses used them to bring in black market goods. One led from the kitchen of the Alexander to the McLaren apartments.  Weeks in advance, big shots would book a room. They’d enter the McLaren, but instead of going upstairs to the apartments, they’d go downstairs.  Their room would be all ready for them, anything they wanted. They’d phone room service at the Alexandra. We’d we’d bring their meals, drinks, girlfriends or prostitutes through  the tunnel. Nobody’d be the wiser. I won’t mention any names, but some  of our regular guests were Cabinet Ministers and a Supreme Court Judge.  All politicians are crooked.

“At the Alexandra they only served Carlsberg beer. One of the bosses would drive a van to the docks at Montreal and,  miraculously, it would be loaded with cases of beer. They’d drive though the tunnel and unload right at the hotel.

“Nearby there was also a clothing store where my girlfriend worked. She said she could get me a good discount. The suit I picked out was priced at seven hundred dollars, imported from Italy.  I got another priced at three hundred. My son was with me at the time, he said, ‘I could use a suit.’ We got all three for a total of three hundred. It was all controlled by the mafia.

“When I was a kid we used to fish in the Ottawa River.  There was none of this catch and release stuff then. I think that’s stupid we fished to eat not to hurt fish.  We’d take them to the back of this Chinese restaurant. They’d give us fifty cents a piece for them.  They’d mix it in with the chicken to cut their costs.

“There used to be a great bar at the Chateau Laurier. That’s where all the high-class prostitutes would hang out — they were expensive though. A couple of times the hotel was shut down by a food inspector for serving cat, disguised as chicken. The fanciest hotel in town serving cat.

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Avro Arrow – 20 November 2013

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20 November 2013

Chuck said he wouldn’t be coming out this morning, but there he was in his usual spot.

“Hi Chuck, I wasn’t expecting to see you today.”

“Well, I talked, on the phone, to my lady friend last night. I told her I’d  meet her for coffee this morning. I did. We had our coffee and talked for about fifteen minutes before she had to go to work. Then I figured,  I’m down here anyway. It’s not that cold out, so I might as well try to collect some money. So here I am. As a matter of fact, I just arrived. I’ll probably stay until about ten thirty, then I have to get some more groceries. I got my stewing beef and chicken, but I need some Oxo for stock. I think I’ve got the beef, but not the chicken.

“I had a hell of a time last night. I was talking to my son on the phone. He’s been getting calls from Bell about his phone service. I could barely hear him, so I called Bell. I could hear a faint voice on the other end. I shouted my phone number and said, ‘Please call me back.’ About an hour later I got a call back. The woman said they were checking on the problem and would call be later when they had it fixed.

“About two thirty in the morning I had to get up to go to the bathroom. The phone rang. I picked it up, said, ‘Hello!’  There was no answer. I didn’t want to get woken up in the middle of the night, so I turned the phone off. I went back to bed, then I heard this loud busy signal. I shouldn’t be hearing  a busy signal if I had the phone turned off, so I took it off the charging stand. I don’t like doing that. I usually move the phone to my bedside table because, you never know, it might be a family tragedy. Anyway, I still haven’t got that sorted. I have my cell phone though, for emergencies.”

A garbage truck turned the corner. Chuck said, “Did you hear about the man who went to the employment office to get a job as a garbage man. He got the job, but they told him that he’d be classified as a Sanitary Engineer. He got home and his wife said. ‘You may be a Sanitary Engineer, but take a shower, you smell like a garbage man.’

“That reminds me of when I worked for the government. I had some fancy title, but basically I was a ‘gofor’ –go for this, go for that. If the front desk got a request for a file she’d fill in a form, have it signed by her superior, who would have it signed by the top brass. Then, I’d be given the requisition and would be sent to pick up the file. Below the Parliament Buildings are a series of tunnels connecting Building A, to Building C, to Building B. That’s for security, so that in case of invasion, the intruder wouldn’t be able to find his way around. Anyway, once I got the requisition it would need to signed by a guard in the tunnel, he’d get it signed by someone else, who’d gets it signed by someone else, finally it gets signed by the top brass and I’m allowed to pick up the file. What a load of bullshit. It would be the same process returning the file.

Including me there were four men and four women, doing what two men and two women could have done. I remember the women. Rebecca was a big red-headed lesbian. Gloria was married and had a couple of kids.  Ellie, I don’t remember so much about her. Dorothy was the tough one. She wore her hair pulled back in a bun; very severe looking. She got me in trouble one day. We weren’t supposed to look out the windows into the courtyard. Well, one day Dorothy caught me and reported it to the higher-ups. I was called on the carpet and asked to explain my self. I said, ‘It’s true, I was looking out the window. What caught my attention was two men arguing loudly. One reached in his pocket for a gun.  I saw the gun. I didn’t know what to do.’ They reported it to security who conducted a search. Nothing came of it. I was off the hook.

“Sometimes, I’d get a request to pick something up at the Jackson Building. They’d give me a bus ticket for the fare there and the fare back. Well, National Defense  is just a block from here and the Jackson Building is straight down here, at the corner of Bank. It’s a ten minute walk, so I’d pocket the bus tickets pick up the package, go for a coffee, read the newspaper and wander back about an hour later. That was the stupid part of the job, but I got to meet the Prime Minister.  Diefenbaker was in office at that time. He was a decent guy, we even had a coffee together, one time.

“I didn’t like what he did about the cut backs though. We were told our wages were frozen, no raises for two years. This didn’t affect the big shots. No sir, they got back pay and bonuses for thousands of dollars. I was the guy who delivered the checks. Boy, was I pissed off. The next day I quit.

“Remember that fiasco with the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow? Jack Kennedy said to Diefenbaker, ‘We’re in the business of building planes. You stay out of it and buy from us.’ Diefenbaker  was a chicken shit. He caved in to Kennedy;  so, everything was scrapped. That cost Canada fifteen thousand jobs and millions of dollars. That plane was  the most advanced of all the fighter jets. Cancelling the Arrow cost Diefenbaker the next election.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avro_Canada_CF-105_Arrow

“On our breaks we used to go to a restaurant on the corner of Sparks and Bank. It’s gone now. It was where Howard’s Jeweller’s is today. It was funny, the women all together on one side and the men on the other.  On occasion, from across the room, mind you,  a woman would open her legs and give us a peek.

I shouldn’t have given up that job. I know that now. If I’d stayed, my pension would be sixty-four dollars a month more than it is now. I’d be able to live on that. I’ve been around for seventy years. I’m too old for this shit.

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What’s Worse…?

Reposted from the blog:

From drugs worker to writer

What’s worse than being a woman with a drug problem?.

What’s worse than being a woman with a drug problem?

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Something which the Government failed to mention in its recent, polished figures is that female unemployment is at its highest for twenty five years. Women’s organisations are pointing out that austerity measures unfairly target women, by making cuts to child benefits at a time when childcare and household bills are rapidly increasing, whilst those that do have jobs still get paid less than men (in 2010, in the public sector – which one may imagine to be the least discriminatory employer – the pay gap between men and women was still an incredible 21%).

An interesting article in Drink and Drug News this month considers the impact of austerity on female drug users. I touched on the stigma faced by women who use substances in Baby wants a double vodka, but this article looks at the effects of the cuts to service provision, given the complexities that often come hand-in-hand with being a woman with a drug problem.

As Caroline Lucas MP points out, women’s substance misuse is often more complicated than men’s, regularly associated with parental and sexual stigmatisation and shame, childcare issues, domestic abuse and prostitution. Yet these specific needs were omitted entirely from the 2010 Drug Strategy, and the ‘bulk-buying” approach to commissioning has meant that gender nuances are now ignored.

The women’s drug service in our area has vanished during the cuts, and their work absorbed by generic drug workers who have less capacity for home visits and parenting work. Many of their clients, who have experienced issues such as sexual abuse, may now need to be seen by male workers, unless they have the confidence to make demands (confidence not being a trait often associated with this group – neither the balance of power when your script depends on it). And whereas having a family may be seen as increasing someone’s ‘recovery capital’, is this necessarily the same when, for women, this may include single parenthood and domestic abuse?

Attempts to maintain and develop best practice are further stretched as fewer staff mean workloads increase – and research into joint-working models has exposed that workers who attempt a multi-agency approach to supporting women often report having to hide this from their managers, as the extra work they do cannot be directly evidenced statistically and so is considered ‘out-of-remit’.

And then there’s what social worker Gretchen Precey has tagged ‘start again syndrome’ – the desire to see every woman’s pregnancy or birth as a fresh start. The dilemma working with this client group is balancing the constant need for motivation and positivity, the belief in the possibility of change, with prioritising the needs of helpless foetuses and babies. As workers, when we see chaos, we often understand vulnerability – and we desperately focus on the glint of positive in the shit pile of someone’s life. But to ignore a woman’s past experiences of motherhood is dangerous, warns Precey – and in a culture where professionals are blamed for any harm that comes to a child (as though, I always feel, they are the perpetrators), workers are left to balance hope against risk. It creates a moral clash. These are the cases that keep you awake at night.

Almost ten years ago, I was involved in a consultation on the Government’s white paper, Paying the Price, which looked at how best to manage prostitution. It seems sad that, years later, the comments I made then ring truer than ever. My point was – the links between child abuse and sex work are well-documented, and yet Social Care are increasingly under-funded and over-stretched. What was once a support service now exists almost exclusively for the purpose of risk management. And so, whether we consider female sex workers, female drug misusers, or women who struggle with motherhood, the common themes remain the same – and as long as we fail to address the root causes of these issues, we are producing the next generation exhibiting these behaviours. The chain continues.

And some of you will know how it feels to see the kids you tried to protect all those years ago arriving at your door with baby bumps, track marks and utter disgust at the world.