Posted by: inforodeo | May 11, 2009

The High Cost of Being Poor

Just saw this article which made me ill …

Charging rent to homeless
Jason Carroll – National Correspondent, CNN’s American Morning: May 11, 2009

Princess Seyborn and her daughter live in a New York City public shelter where they are now being asked to pay rent.

Imagine you’re a single mother. You’re living in a homeless shelter making barely enough at your job as a day care worker to feed your daughter and pay the bills. Now what would you do if that shelter suddenly told you in order to stay you had to pay rent? This is the reality for Princess Seyborn and hundreds of other working homeless families in New York City.

The city is starting to charge working homeless families like Seyborn to stay in the city’s publicly run shelters. Seyborn now has to pay $345 dollars a month in rent. “I tried to explain it on my best behalf,” Seyborn said. “I don’t have it and all I’m getting is pens and paper in my face saying sign here and sign here, and I refuse to sign.”

The policy is based on a 1997 state law, which requires shelter residents with jobs to use a portion of their earnings to pay rent. The amount varies according to family size and which shelter is being used.

So why is the city implementing the law now? One reason could have to do with the results of a 2007 state audit. The city was required to pay back $2.4 million in housing aid that should have been supplemented by working homeless families.

The city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, defended the policy saying, “Everybody else is doing it, and we’re told we have to do it, so we’re going to do it.”

But some city officials say the mayor should be looking for ways to reverse the policy not enforce it. Homeless advocates warn the policy could actually prolong a person’s stay at a shelter. Arnold Cohen, President and CEO of Partnership for the Homeless, said city officials don’t understand the income many of these people make goes to childcare. Cohen said, “So, when they have child care they are able to look for a job, able to look for housing, but we’re essentially taking that money away from them.”

The city says the policy is designed to prevent the working homeless from becoming dependent on public assistance and to move families back into their own homes.

So what can the working homeless do if faced with the prospect of being kicked out under the policy? Princess Seyborn is filing an appeal with the state. But critics of the policy worry unless it is reversed, many working homeless will end up back on the streets.


After digging through the sensationalist slant this story has, i think the idea of charging long-term homeless “a percentage of their income” to continue to stay in the shelter makes sense.

In order for welfare programs to truly work, they have to provide some sort of “nudge” within their supporting framework to help people “get back on their feet” … otherwise, by merely providing for some of the needs of the people, it creates a situation where the victims/clients are forced to rely on that need (almost addictively), and that increases the number of people hanging on the system – which is good for people “in the business” of providing for the poor, but bad for the poor themselves.

i’m sorry that she has to pay $345 a month – a PERCENTAGE – of her income – to take up the space needed by others worse of than she. Their percentage is likely 30% or less than the total income (if keeping in line with most other welfare programs, being based on the idea that the rest of the income needs to go to other necessities of life) … if that is so, she makes about $1150 a month. (Not a lot, but it’s $1000 more a month than i make, and i have 2 kids with another on the way!)

The cost of living is much higher in urban areas than in the rural areas. Where i live, $345 a month would rent her (or be payments on) a nice 3 bedroom house. Apartments are around $300 a month – and they are every bit as nice (or better) than those we had in urban areas that went for $1200+ a month!

Why don’t the poor move away from the city, to some where less expensive, where there is also work available? Is it that we don’t have shopping malls and as many fast-food restaurants? Is it that there are more “manual labor” jobs out here than easy office jobs? Is it because cellphone service is spotty or that you can’t find a $4 coffee no matter how hard you look?

Is it maybe that we don’t have as many “free rides” available in rural America, or that out here “entitlement” is a dirty word?


After reading the story again, i’m left wondering why the government does not pay for childcare instead. After all, wasn’t it the infamous talking Clinton who quoted “It takes a village to raise a child”?

I also want to know (still) why Obama wants to pump more money into ‘failing urban centers” instead of sending it somewhere where it will be used more efficiently … maybe to the farmers and blue-collar working americans who produce the products that keep our country running!  If the money spent keeping people addicted to welfare was spent on helping farmers produce more food, we wouldn’t be as dependent on other countries!

Too many of the policies which promote liberal, leftist ideals HURT the backbone of america.  Carbon emmisions?  Clean Air bills?  Sure!  Force city folk to take a “light rail” or bus to work, or bike to work, or telecommute …
but in the areas best suited for farming – wide open areas with unpolluted water sources – people NEED to be able to drive a beat-up gas guzzler to get from point A to point B! The idea that the old farmer who has been driving his grandpa’s 1953 pickup needs to either retrofit or buy a brand new hybrid SUV to get into town for more seed and pipe is ridiculous, and would only work in a wealthy “hobby farm” area like new England.
Many of these cities don;’t have “public transportation” – and for good reason!  A town of 3,000 just doesn’t have the money to pay for a bus that would have to drive twice as far to pick up customers, and being 30 miles from nowhere forces a NEED to have one’s own transport.

As i said in my response to the blog … rural america WORKS and urban america CONSUMES.  while it makes sense from a “make more voters happy!” standpoint to continue to drop $20 bills from the air over poor neighborhoods, in the long term (but within the decade), government spending to make the laziest or greediest part of the population happy is going to do no good … because our real infrastructure – the farmers and the factory workers – is going to suffer right out of business.

If you clicked on the link to that blog, i want you to look at a few things, as examples of uneccesary consumption:

– nice, modern hairstyle on the homeless woman
– new clothes
– fancy balloons ($6 each!?)
– mother and daughter have matching shoes
– mommy has stylish form-fitting pants
– the office of the homeless advocate looks like a fancy hotel

if you live in the city, you probably saw something different.  This difference in perspective is due to a difference in culture, and i think this difference in culture might be the key, so please follow me:

when i walk down the street each day, or drive to the shopping center (Wal-Mart), i see this:

seriously – no kidding!  as portrayed in the three pictures, there are a lot of Mennonites around here (Mennonites are the folks the more radical Amish broke off from) – i see them mostly at Home Depot, buying tools or paint, and at yardsales, and they’re pretty much thrifty, hard-working and modest people.  There are a lot of middle class and “not quite middle class” families with SUVs – needed to haul their 6 kids up the muddy, rutted road to the house at the far end of the farm (honestly, the people in this picture are a little more “wealthy” than the norm), and then we’ve got farmers.  This particular image is actually from some organic farming site, but i found it fitting, because the clothing people wear (other than the matching hats, indicating these people are more “corporate”)is pretty much like these three (‘cept the woman’s shirt should be untucked, and REAL farmers’ wives usually have shorter hair that requires less maintenence).

My point here … is that the following “essentials” of life for an urban American are “luxuries” for a rural American, and thereby really uneccesary when it comes down to being “homeless” or “in need of welfare”. (i.e. if you are THAT bad off, you could get rid of your “need” of these things):

cable or satellite television (radio if free, and easiser to work to)
soda pop
potato chips
thai food
any kind of fast food
sports drinks
energy drinks
fashionable clothing (you really just need something that fits and doesn’t rip very easily)
fasionable eyeglasses
internet access
a shiny newer-model (last 10 years or so) car
name-brand shoes (like clothes, you need something comfortable and durable)
toys that use batteries
toys that are made in the image of a movie character
going out to movies
ice cream
air conditioning
a television
credit cards (you really shouldn’t have ANY debt-causing devices!)
a nice haircut
an iPod
a GPS unit
more than one room in your house per person (you could be like people were for century, and have 2 or more per room, with all the kids in one!)

i think you get the idea.

i’ve lived in metro areas on both coasts, and i can say the same about rural areas.  when you take emphasis off of “keeping up with the joneses” – and by this, i mean:  when you quit going to Hot Topic to out steam-punk/goth/skank your friends, when you ignore Aeropostale, GAP, Old Navy, D&G, Target, or Gucci your friends … when you don’t waste money trying to out-green them, out-parent them, out-holistic healing-them, out Sci Fi CON them, or out Season-Tickets them, you’ll find you have a ton more financial resources.

For thousands of years people survived without Air conditioning, a morning $4 latte, a pack of cigarettes, Star Trek, a fashionable pair of giant sunglasses or an iPhone.  To think that God would give you less of a chance getting a job and supporting yourself or your family because you didn’t have that caffiene in the morning or that iPhone for potential employers to reach you on is ridiculous.  If society has made these items absolutely necessary, then we ought to rebel, and live without them.

That brings me to a hint of a new topic:  Why is it that when riotous liberals go on a rampage, they always attack Wal-Mart (which provides items within the financial range of the poor of the community), religion (which generally has the most effective welfare and social well-being programs), and government (which is just doing what the people hired it to do) … instead of attacking addiction-mongers and luxury peddlers like Apple, VH1, the people who make the “Free Tibet” bumper stickers, the big-ticket electronics stores, Volkswagon, the alcohol companies, the liberal politicians who fly their private jets to and fro, urging everyone else to ride bicycles, etc?

just wondering.


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