When assembling the Poverty Challenge, the committee that helped organize the event was asked to provide first-hand testimonies from those they serve to illustrate the experience of homelessness and poverty. The account below was provided to us through a Crisis Services Homeless Outreach worker:
John Doe is a single male who suffers from medical problems with his kidneys. Mr. Doe became homeless due to his disability because he is not longer able to work. Mr. Doe has applied for and is pending disability benefits. Until his disability benefits are approved, Mr. Doe had no other choice but to apply for Public Assistance, Food Stamps, and Medicaid. Due to the amount of cash assistance he received, the only housing he could afford was a rooming house where drug usage and prostitution was known to occur. Also, with such a low Public Assistance benefit, Mr. Doe found himself relying on his Food Stamps to cover the majority of his grocery bills.
When it came to food, I usually was buying TV dinners, canned goods, pop, and milk. I couldn’t buy toiletries with food stamps, which is what I really needed. Because food stamps weren’t enough, I had to visit various food sources (i.e.: City Mission, free dinning sites, etc). I would have to visit outside sources every other day because the food stamps were not enough to cover my grocery bill.
I feel that the system is unfair because the food that I want and need I can’t get. It was hard to find other things that I needed such as toothpaste and toilet paper which I also needed to keep my hygiene up. I felt angry and frustrated more than anything. There were many times I went hungry due to the fact that I did not have enough food stamps to cover my needs.
If I was able to change the system, I would change the amount of cash assistance that is provided. Even though they pay rent for the room I was living in, I still needed money for every day needs. As far as the process, I feel it is unfair that you have to wait 45 days for your case to open. It’s not fair that someone has to stay in a homeless shelter because it takes 45 days for your case to open, you should know right then and there. With emergency food stamps, especially if you have kids, and it is a true emergency it should be processed right then and there. They shouldn’t have to wait five days.