Friday, March 14, 2014

What kind of driver are you?

If you read my last post, you’ll see that I address the misconception that all poor people are alike and cheat the system.  A friend read the post, and with great humor, she emailed me a parallel quote that Houston’s drivers are also not all alike:  some cut you off in traffic, some are angry, some are gracious, some are slow, etc…  You’ll have to read my last blog to catch the humor in her writing – I think she had a bad experience on Highway 59 near the construction on Weslayan. 
Also on the heels of posting that last blog, one of our volunteers shared this story of a client we recently helped.

It’s a two-parent family with a four-year old and a seven-month old.  Dad is a dental hygienist, certified in the State of California.  They lived in California, but the cost of living was too high, so they made the big decision to move to Houston.  Our cost of living is considerably less, plus Houston is a city of opportunity.
Unfortunately, they made a mistake that has cost them dearly.  They didn’t realize that his professional certification does not transfer over in Texas, so instead of earning a decent wage in his field of work, he is earning just above minimum wage, working in a restaurant.  The mother cares for the children full-time, so until the youngest begins kindergarten, she cannot contribute much to the household’s income.

The volunteer told me this family is stressed, and Dad works a lot, just to pay the bills.  Becoming recertified will cost him time and money, and they are trying to address those barriers.  In the meantime, CCSC provided food and clothing to the family and connected them to other resources to help their situation.
They are not cheating the system, but are doing their best in a difficult situation.  It is the mission of CCSC to be a safety net for families such as these.  We represent the church in saying, “this family is suffering and is worthy of help – let’s do what we can to soften the hard circumstances of their life.“  And we do it with kindness. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Questions on poverty

A few months ago, I spoke to a group of people giving a CCSC talk, outlining our mission and programs.  Near the end, I opened it up for questions.  Several people asked variations of the same question:  how do we qualify people for help?
I receive this question often, and it’s usually about wanting to ensure we are good stewards of the resources donated to us.  In other words, do we have a system in place to ensure the people we help are truly in need, and do we apply those policies fairly and consistently?  These are good, fair questions that I’m comfortable answering. 
However, it was clear that this group came from a perspective of assuming people in need disproportionately cheat the system.  The questions became more and more targeted and negative. 

My point in writing about this incident is not to discuss how I handled this situation.  Instead it's to clarify that low income people are just like other groups of people:  not identical clones, but unique individuals with their own personalities, stories and history.

Some are Type A, some are laid back, some are angry, some are humble, some are depressed, some take short-cuts, some are workaholics, etc…  Because all systems are comprised of people, you will always have some who follow the system and some who try to get around it.  In this regard, the poor are no different than any other group of people.

At CCSC, we do our very best to ensure the people we help are in need and match our goals and objectives. When we’re not sure, we err on the side of grace.  When we say “no”, we say it with kindness.  In all matters, we work hard to be fair.