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One huge myth in society today is that people want to be on public assistance.
The reality is that people do not want to be on public assistance and for the most part they are trying to get off of it. It’s difficult, it’s often demeaning and the funding is not enough to get an individual or a family through a month.
The people receiving assistance are often stuck in nearly impossible situations. Sometimes they made mistakes that helped create their problems, and other times they are in these situations through no fault of their own. Every person has his or her own story, and this is the story of Lisa, a 28-year-old single mother of three who is living in Millfield. She has had some tough breaks and made a few mistakes, and now is struggling to get by and get back on her feet.
Lisa worked steadily for several employers in recent years and things were going pretty well for her. When she became pregnant with her third child, though, she became very ill.
“I had to stop working,” she said, adding that she stayed physically ill for several weeks even after having the baby. After finally recovering from the illness, she was out of work, had no income, and was raising three children all by herself.
She became very depressed, felt overwhelmed and anxious, and didn’t feel right mentally. She admits she made some poor choices, and turned to drugs in an effort to feel better.
At that time, she had her children stay with her parents because she was not in a good frame of mind to care for them, Lisa explained. She did not have a stable home because she was moving from place to place, and she felt it was better for her children to be with her parents. She drifted through life in this way for a few months until one night when she told herself that she needed to get her life back together.
“It just hit me. I don’t deserve to sleep on someone’s floor. I don’t want to sleep on someone’s floor,” Lisa said. She added that she said to herself, “Lisa, what the hell are you doing? Where are you? Where are your kids?”
After that point, she got away from the drugs and the people associated with it, rented a home (with some assistance from her parents), got her children back and began rebuilding her life.
Today, she is involved with the job programs at The Work Station in The Plains, and is actively looking for a job.
“Right now, I need to get a job and get off of assistance,” Lisa said. She receives $536 per month in cash assistance and $588 per month in food assistance funding. The food funding does not cover the grocery needs for the family for the entire month, and cash assistance only goes so far, especially when you consider that her rent is $350 per month.
It’s difficult to find a job, though, that either will allow her to bring her one-year-old with her or that will pay her enough that she can also pay for child care while she works.
She only has 12 months left on cash assistance before she will be ineligible (one can only receive cash assistance benefits for a total of 36 months), and she does not want to use all of her time.
“I never wanted to use cash assistance. It was a big step for me to get it,” Lisa said. She goes to food banks when she needs extra food, and her parents also help her out from time to time.
But Lisa doesn’t want help. She wants to have her own steady job again so she can properly care for her children and pay her bills. She wants to be able to buy her own Christmas and birthday presents for her children instead of relying on others.
She is thankful for the cash assistance, but said that if it could provide more monthly funding, or even just increase the funding during different times of the year such as Christmas or back-to-school time when expenses go up, it would be a big help.
And while she agrees that a work requirement for the cash assistance program is a good thing, she said the current setup is often frustrating. She works 86 hours a month in the program for the cash assistance funding, but she also has to pay for childcare while she is working and she has a difficult time finding transportation to and from the work sites.
Working with different social service programs, Lisa said that many caseworkers are friendly and helpful, but some talk down to her and are condescending. It is difficult to ask for help at times, but it’s more difficult when people treat her this way and they don’t know her situation or everything she is doing to try to improve her life, she said..
“The PRC program is awesome,” Lisa said, adding that the program helped her pay her electric bill recently. The HEAP program is also very helpful, but she had to call in at 5 a.m. every day for two weeks before she finally got through to be in the program this year, she said.
The jobs programs at The Work Station have also been especially helpful, and Lisa said she enjoys working with everyone at the facility.
“I’m trying hard to get a job. I’m trying hard to get out of Ohio,” Lisa said. She wants to make a fresh start somewhere else, and may have an opportunity this summer to move to the area where parents now live. She hopes to find more job possibilities there, and hopes to be able to build a better life for her children.
“I feel like I’m getting back on track with my life,” Lisa said. “I’m just not quite there yet.”