The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Posted by Bill Nance on August 30, 2009

I was browsing MSNBC this morning and ran into this little gem of an article about a redevelopment of a housing project in Watts, CA.

LOS ANGELES – Juanita Sims has lived in the notorious Jordan Downs project in Watts for nearly four decades, raising eight children behind the barred windows of the cramped barracks-like apartments.

Let me get this straight: Sims has lived for free in a housing project since the age of 33ish, collecting welfare and raised eight kids there? And she’s still there?

WTF????

Watts is virtually right next to Long Beach and is a relatively easy bus-ride from West LA or northern Orange County, all places with plentiful job opportunities. Work is hard to come by in Compton, but taking the bus to work is something I’ve managed to do for years at a time. In other words, there isn’t a reason on earth why someone, even someone not too bright or very enterprising, can get a job; if perhaps not a very good one. Welfare-to-work programs have been available for decades, helping people pay for childcare, education, healthcare and even housing.

I’ve never been one to blame the poor for being poor, but at some point, it stops being the fault of bad breaks and starts being the responsibility of the people who live in poverty when there are alternatives. Minimum wage jobs suck and the pay stinks, but it’s a start. That first job teaches you how to hold a job, how to take orders and some, if not many skills. From that really crappy job you move into a marginally less crappy job, making a little more, learning some new skills and move onto another still-less crappy job. Somewhere along the way you get some training or develop some skills that are actually in demand and can live in something other than poverty if not great comfort.

In other words, it’s the same path millions of us have all taken. My first job was as a deckhand on a fishing boat in the summer. My first real job was working at McDonald’s, where I juggled that and a second minimum wage job so I could pay the rent. From there I went to another job waiting tables making a whopping 30 cents an hour over minimum wage ($3.40 an hour woot!) and made some pretty measly tips as well (It wasn’t exactly a high-class joint). I did all this before the age of 17 because I’d been out of the house since 15! That’s right, no high-school diploma. Hell I wasn’t even legally allowed to work. I lied about my age on every application. When I turned 17 I took the California High School Competency test, receiving an actual high school diploma so I could join the military. From there it was all progressive improvements.

A note to Juanita and those like her: Keep your damned legs closed and get a job. Raising eight kids in the projects and spending four decades on the dole is pathetic, not something that inspires pity.

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