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Monday, November 7, 2011

Doing the Right Thing 15+ Years Ago is Working Against Denise Today

Denise did what she needed to and followed the rules. Now she’s lost her job and she and her children are living at a shelter.

Denise was a teenage mom. When her child was born, she continued her education, receiving some Temporary Aid for Need Families support while she went to high school. She made it through her junior year before she found herself having to make the tough decision to drop out of school. She had struggled to find safe, nurturing child care for her son while she was in school, but when her senior year came around, she was out of child care options and chose to put her son first and stay with him.

In the following years, Denise went to school to become certified as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). She was able to do this because CNA training is one of the select training paths one can take in Illinois and still qualify for TANF, subsidized child care, food stamps, and other services.

Once she had her CNA, Denise found a job working with seniors and people with disabilities. She worked full time, uninterrupted, for fifteen years as her family grew, her skills increased, and she matured into adulthood. Denise had never been homeless never had to seek out TANF any further, until this recession.

In March, the facility where Denise worked shut down. When she pursued a new job in her field, she found that the field had changed, shrunk, and that there were not jobs readily available. She’s been seeking work since March and only last month had to give up her apartment and move herself and her children to a shelter. She has gone back to school for her GED, hoping to go on to train as a medical assistant. Last school session, though, she had to drop out because she didn’t have the bus fare to get to her classes regularly.

When Denise sought help, TANF, food stamps, and other supports this year, she found that she was ineligible for most public supports because in her teens she had exhausted the 60-month lifetime limit for support. This meant that doing the right thing for her son when she was 17 years old precludes her from receiving much help now, in the depths of the recession. While I’m not sure whether the crafters of welfare reform in the 1990s meant for this to be the case, it is the reality for Denise.

Today, we post Denise’s simple request. She’s finding it almost impossible to persevere in her job search, get to class and the library, and manage her progress forward without being able to access even public transportation. Denise is asking for three months of a hand in the form of three monthly bus passes for the Chicago Transit Authority. It’s not a large request, only $280, but Denise has a plan and a path, and simply needs help getting to and from it.

As always, you can support Benevolent member needs at www.benevolent.net. We are pleased to report that Anne's need, posted less than two weeks ago, has been met in full. We hope to continue to prove the Benevolent model with the fulfillment of this need in the weeks before the launch of Benevolent't real site.

- megan kashner

Founder & CEO

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