There are a couple of clues right in the titles. Food stamps are clearly meant to be used to purchase food, don't let all those kids buying six dollar Starbucks Frappaccino's for themselves and their friends to the tune of forty to one hundred dollars at a time fool you. The Department of Human Services takes into account how much food a family would need so apart from income, the number of people in the household is taken into account as well. The woman whose place I took in the program claimed that she had three children, which she did, but she hadn't had custody of them in over a year. As to TANF, that's assistance for "needy families" as is indicated by the acronym, this woman lived alone, rent free in the space above her parents garage. One person does not constitute a family and yet she received TANF and Food Stamps based on a household of four including herself.
To be clear, TANF is just cash. It's put onto a card, much like a credit card and can be used however the recipient sees fit. Some use it for toiletries, bills, and as a supplement to rent or to purchase household items they cannot purchase with food stamps. During my tenure working the counter of a Circle K I saw them used by young people to purchase tobacco and alcohol and even those "vape" smoking kits running anywhere between thirty and fifty dollars or more. Many of these same kids used the food stamps they got to buy food there as well. Yes, to buy their food at a Circle K. If you don't know, there isn't much there in the way of nutrition and the price of food at a convenience store is jacked way up, you have to pay for the convenience after all. The woman whose place I took in the housing program used her TANF money to buy booze at the bar where she sold the prescription medications the state paid for at a profit. Sure, since the state paid for the pills it was all profit but to be clear, she pulled in hundreds of dollars.
So, I took the place of a woman faking disability and yet getting a disability check who also received TANF and food stamps based on a household of four people despite the fact that she lived alone. She also funded her alcoholic tendencies with money from the state as well as the money she made from the illegal sale of prescription medications provided by the state. She talked as though she was proud of how she was manipulating the system, another concept I cannot wrap my head around. What kind of self entitled buffoon would think that "the man" owes them something? I once met a woman who was pregnant and seemed happy to squeeze out her fourth bastard child if only to get more money from TANF. I have seen people with an "Obama phone" in one pocket and an eight hundred dollar smart phone in the other. Yes, people do take these programs for granted, some people. Unfortunately, folks like to put people into a box and slap a label on it without really taking anything into account, without taking the time to think first.
As to my own case, I don't receive child support, never have. Instead I have worked two to five jobs at any given time to keep my daughter fed and clothed and to provide her with shelter. I follow the rules and work very hard. It's just my daughter and I so I only have my own income and the job market right now is terrible. It doesn't help that the overall economy in this country is failing. Needless to say, I was really grateful to have the help and as is my habit, used the program as it was intended to be used. Recently, I had to remove myself from the housing program due to harassment. I had been working with the Marion County Housing Authority for three years and had a plan. Having used the program as it was meant to be used my situation had improved and with the assistance as well as my own hard work and determination I figured I could get caught up and quit housing within a year, probably less.
Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to realize that goal and instead had to quit the program early. I understand that the housing authority is allowed to inspect my home, the rule is that they inspect once a year. For me, in this situation, the inspection I was being told was coming would have been the fourth in 6 months. It was one stubborn employee of the Marion County Housing Authority that was insistent that she must get into my apartment. For the sake of clarity let me add that having used the program as it was meant to be used I had indeed bettered my situation and have a full time job now. Even when I was part time and was notified of an inspection if I had to work on the day of the inspection I could call and reschedule it to a day off. The inspector always would work with me and we would always reschedule for the next week. The whole working together thing came to an abrupt halt when this one woman got involved, let's call her Shelby.
I got a letter from Shelby saying that I had another inspection, the date on the letter indicated I had three days. To be clear, the last inspection housing had done was literally 30 days prior. I had rescheduled that one due to work as well and apparently that was interpreted by Shelby as me having something to hide. I looked at my work schedule and realized I had to work the day she had scheduled her inspection, mind you, inspecting isn't even her job, they have someone else who does those. At any rate, I called her and left a message indicating that I wouldn't be there on that day but the following week I had Tuesday off and could we do the inspection then. The reply I got from Shelby via voicemail was as follows, "It doesn't matter if you are there or not, I will just call the landlord and have them let me in." That struck me as odd. Just because I am poor doesn't mean I have no rights. Since Shelby refuses to take calls, very unprofessional in my opinion, only voicemail is available, that or emails. When I called the office to object to the way I was being handled I got another woman from the office who told me straight out that the reason why Shelby was so anxious to get into my home was because she suspected I had something to hide.
At this point I was getting upset. I have never given anyone any reason to suspect me of anything other than working hard, paying my rent on time and for always being in compliance, jumping through every single hoop they ever put in front of me. I don't even have any kind of record, not so much as a parking or speeding ticket. I am in my late forties, not some twenty something party girl. I have a teenage daughter who is in high school and we live on such a tight budget we really don't even get out much. My daughter doesn't even have friends over because our place is so small. We have no pets and well, no reason to be suspected of anything out of the extremely ordinary. I emailed Shelby to attempt again to reschedule, letting her know I preferred to be there, I mean who wants strangers milling around in their house when they aren't home? She rudely insisted that she was getting the landlord involved and would be there to inspect whether I was there or not.
I emailed Shelby to let her know that I was officially removing myself from the program and that her Gestapo tactics left much to be desired. I thanked her and the entire housing authority for working so hard and thought that would be the end of it. Then I got a voicemail from Shelby indicating that she was still coming out to inspect my home. Fortunately, Shelby was out of compliance. When she contacted my landlord to be let into my unit my landlord flat out told her no. My landlord told Shelby that she would have had to contact her 24 hours in advance to be let in and since Shelby had called that morning demanding to be let in later that same say there was no way she was getting in. I called the housing authority to make it clear I had removed myself from the program since apparently Shelby was planning on ignoring my request until she got into my home. Suffice it to say, that horribly invasive, rude and assumptive woman never darkened my doorstep and I am no longer on housing.
Being off of housing is a sort of freedom. I like that I am no longer under the jackboot of people like Shelby and to be honest, I feel sorry for that poor woman. If your job has you so delusional that you suspect people of suspicious activity without proof and then take it upon yourself to police them it's clearly time to consider a new career path. Meanwhile, the program still caters to people like the woman who was booted from the program for fraud. If anything it seems that the program caters to the abusers of it rather than folks who want to use it properly and that's just sad.
Obviously the blame, were I one to play the blame game, which I'm not due to the number of variables, doesn't rest solely on the shoulders of the people who work within the program. However, it doesn't lie solely on the shoulders of those who use it either. I can say in truth that assumptions are more readily made about people on it than people who work within it. It seems that the first woman I spoke with, the one who confided in me the story of the girl who had committed fraud, was one example of a person within that system who saw the ways in which it didn't work and became frustrated. By the time the incident happened with Shelby, that first woman was long gone. I later found out she had quit and gone on to better things. The way Shelby acted was another manifestation of someone working within that system who not only saw that it was a broken system but actually became a part of the reason why.