Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Primer on depression

I can take you there.

To the current, on-going "Great Depression."

It's been around for decades here in Dallas.

Sad thing is, its pace is picking up considerably.

You can see it in our Resource Center here in East Dallas.

Or, if you prefer a neighborhood expression, complete with lots of children and weary adults, I can take you there to several different versions of the same terrifying reality.

For here, let's look at our Resource Center.

Folks still call it the "Food Pantry."

Consider:

Through the first nine months of 2007, our volunteers served 14,487 hours and interviewed and served 31,603 individuals from 19,418 presenting family units. These "contact" numbers represented 7,968 unduplicated family units and 13,438 different individuals. Lots of people with food and life issues. Lots of work.

Through the first nine months of 2008, our volunteers logged 12,621 hours and interviewed and served 40,118 individuals from 23,272 presenting family units. These "contact" numbers represent 9,151 unduplicated family units and 16,037 different individuals. Even more people with nutrition and life issues. Lots of work.

Twenty-seven percent increase in individual contacts. Twenty percent increase in family contacts. A 15% increase in unduplicated families and a 19% increase in unduplicated individuals served in this one venue. It is also interesting to note that we experienced a 13% decline in available volunteer hours to do even more work.

Tough times for people who have little. But, not new times, not new at all.

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What are the reasons given? Loss of employment, rising cost of living...These are difficult times for all of us and especially the poor who are trying to survive. My Church recently started a food outreach program. I was happy they did because it takes people helping people to get through difficult times. I did not realize this until after I experienced a humbling period in my life. I will always be grateful for the help I received and am more than happy to give back by helping others. This is what life is all about friends.

Chris said...

Larry,

I'm sure you are looking forward to the Obama administration when the wealth will be "redistributed" even more than it is now.

As I mentioned once, my husband is a mentor in the prison system since even before his retirement.

It seems to me that the culture the very poor live in is more to blame than anything else. I don't know how to change it but let me give you an example.

Mr "A' was released from prison after 8 years. He has 4 children by 3 different women. The caregiver receives $500.00 per child for their care and has for years, from the taxpayer, of course.

He is a diabetic. While in prison, his condition was under control. No problems. When he got out he didn't take care of himself. He got a foot infection from walking around in the sewage of "Ike" which resulted in a partial amputation of his foot. Now he is completely disabled. Incidentally, he received free care at the public hospital. Yesterday, my husband spent all day walking him through the process of applying for disability. Oh, while he was in the hospital, no family member was with him and he managed to lose his "valuables." This resulted in having to go to a faith based agency to reapply for a birth certificate and other Identification before he could complete his disability papers. They had to cut him checks to pay for sending off for these various papers.

My point is, when does individual responsibility start? Or is there any such thing? I realize there are problems that come up which the individual cannot control but this persons life is a continual soap opera. For example, "I have a flat, could you come to such and such a place. I don't have a spare."

I have a feeling this story is not unique.

So in order to raise the standard of living, how can the basic culture be changed?

Anonymous said...

That is an example of only a small part of this population Chris and we should not let it become our impression of all low income or poor people. Should all suffer because of the failure of a few? I work with this population too and what I see very often is a system that works against them instead of helping. Money is what makes the world go around and if you have no money you are at a disadvantage with less opportunity available, especially if you are a former offender. It is easy to become depressed and give up hope when you have no opportunity to better yourself. I am not saying this to justify poor decisions but to point out that it is a struggle.

Larry James said...

I read once, Chris, that "you can't do much good or avoid much evil without money." The generational culture of poverty is sustained by how poverty is built into the system. No one here is denying individual responsibility, not at all. But your view of people reflects no understanding of the lifelong reality that poverty has pressed on so many. If the man your husband was assisting had been able to rent an apt, get a job, etc., maybe he would be doing better. But our nation doesn't give ex-incarcerated individuals what they need. Prison is a lifelong sentence in most cases. Put me in that situation and see how I would do. And, you too.

BTW--the "caregiver" you mention for these children certainly is not the mother; welfare benefits like you describe here ended in 1996 and there is a 5-year lifetime limitation imposed on all mothers when it comes to TANF assistance. Possibly she is a foster parent. Your worldview when it comes to the poor is one of a person who comes and goes; it takes more than that to understand and it will take a national investment to cut into the continuation of poverty's disaster in this nation. It's not simple. I certainly don't understand it all. But I know that if our starting point is pure judgment, we will never progress.

chris said...

I think the children were cared for by one of the grandmothers. Mr. A had a "profession" even before going to prison, of picking up scrap metal. He bought himself an old truck and could actually make several hundred dollars/daily doing this until he dropped something heavy on his foot, resulting in extra potential for infection which happened.

Anonymous said...

Chris:

I understand you frustration. I really do. I once worked with a woman who was very well intentioned. She lived on maybe $500 a month. I found out she was spending $125 a month (25% of her income) on small life insurance policies ($5-10K) designed to pay for burial. It was a very real fear for her that she or her loved ones would die without the means for a decent burial. But after we talked, she agreed it didn't make sense to spend so much of her money on a fear. But it was very real to her. So, are bad choices involved? You bet. But she didn't know any better. She had not grown up in a family capable of teaching her better financial management skills. She had not had enough education or training to make more than token amounts doing odd jobs.

I just always try to remember that I should not pat myself on the back too hard for my "home run" of stable job and loving, nuclear family since I started out on third base. Others, like this woman, seem to start out with two strikes against them before they ever get to swing at the ball. I think that personal connection is what Larry means when he indicates that no one's stats alone can tell the story. No one is against personal responsibility. But some also need a helping hand (cliched thought the phrase may be). And how many Biblical stories tell us that's what we're supposed to do?