Photograph by Macaulay Lerman
Audio by Vermont Folklife
1.“Twenty five years I’ve been here. They’re still giving out the same amount of money…” (:29)
You know what's funny? 25 years I've been here, they're still giving out the same amount of money for Reach Up, so $580. You have one kid, you get $580 a month. You know, rents are through the roof. Electricity is more expensive, fuel is more expensive. $580. General Assistance, same thing, $198 you get for housing, you know, to help you with your housing, $56 a month in spending money. So that's, it's kind of amazing how inflation--welfare hasn't kept up with inflation at all.
2. “Nothing. They don’t have any safety net.” (1:25)
When I first left home, I went hitchhiking across the country with my boyfriend. And so I learned, you know, we didn't have any place to stay. We didn't have hardly any money. So we, you know, hitchhiked and slept under bridges and slept outside. And then we got to New Mexico, we found an apart--with our last $100 somebody let us move into an apartment for $100. And we both got crappy jobs, like dishwashing and working in motel rooms. So then--but I always had parents. I always had parents. If--you know, when my dog got hit by a car and it was $200 to get his legs fixed. "Dad, you know, can I...?.” And Dad sent me $200 to get my dog's leg fixed. You know, so there was always a safety net. And I've had, you know, people come in here, young women with little babies, nothing. They don't have any safety net. That's, that's a huge difference between me and my clients, is that. So I'm glad I had that hardship because I know what it's like to live outside. I know what it's like to scrounge. I know what it's like to get food stamps. You know, like we got our food stamps and we just went to the grocery store and bought tons of crap, you know, And we were 18 years old. So I understand, you know, it's, it's fun, all of a sudden now you have--and you're not thinking long-term.
3. "Everybody is just doing the best they can." (1:17)
That whole idea that you can pick yourself up by your bootstraps, and [SIGHS]--I just think people who are brought up with privilege assume that they just worked really hard and, you know, got into college and got a great job. And I guess I wish that we all could see this, the story, the video of everybody's life. You know, you grew up and, you know, you, [SIGHS]. I think I wish people would realize that everybody's doing the best they can. And I mean, I try to do this myself, but I am not always successful, but, that there's a reason that people are where they are and everybody's trying really hard. And it's people that even, you know, people that have worked their whole lives. They'll come in here every year with their taxes and they've worked really hard and they're still struggling. And it's really hard for them to see other people getting stuff for free that are, you know, poorer than they are [SIGHS]. Anyway. I don't really believe in that whole American dream thing, that you can succeed if you work hard enough.
4. "They are not fitting into the boxes well...bureaucracy is bureaucracy…” (1:20)
Somebody was in here today and I was trying to help them fill out a food stamp application. And she's, she's getting by on $636 a month. And she owns a trailer and somebody is in her trailer with her to try to help with the bills, because obviously $636--and that kind of thing makes everyone crazy. So, you know, like, how do we put this in the form so that she'll still get help? So those kind of things. Or somebody gets a job. So they're self-employed. They figured out how to do this, to be self-employed. And then there's just you know, they get taxed too much. They're trying to get assistance. And I so I guess it's people trying to get assistance who obviously need assistance, but they're not fitting into the box as well, so. And I understand why not. You know, and bureaucracy is bureaucracy, there's, there's rules and they're trying to make things fair. But that's very difficult. And I think that that's something I usually can help people with. You know, how we need to put this so that you will get assistance. So we learn those tricks here, which is kind of nice. So that's kind of difficult.