Another Unwed Mother
I’m sure Bristol will have a nice wedding, and I hope that the relationship which produced the baby is more than a mere incident of adolescent hot blood between two people who are essentially incompatible. But I’m sure you realize as well as I that the odds on this are ambiguous, at best.
Since it’s on my mind again, it is an opportunity to tell you about the life of a certain young unwed mother I know named Latisha. She lives down the street from me in a two bedroom apartment with baby Sean and Granmama, and, when I can work, we ride on the same bus line. Because she’s young and healthy and works full time, Latisha pays $1.50 a trip. I pay $.75. Baby Sean rides free, and only Granmama has a 15 year old Toyota. They’ll run for darn near forever if you treat them right.
Latisha is very Christian but is far more likely to be found in a church eqivalent to Barack Obama’s than Sarah Palin’s, as you might guess from her lovely name.
Now I’m disabled for being mad as a hatter, with a fire in the brain that burns down to cold and horrid ashes before blazing up again, over and over. My professional title is Mental Health Consumer. I kid you not. I’m paid $60.00 a meeting to attend intermittent bureaucratic meetings and give “consumer input”.
So I might also meet Latisha & Co. in the grimy Job and Family Services foyer while we wait to argue with bored and passive aggressive caseworkers. All of us have to go in twice a year to reapply for Medicaid and for Food Stamps. There really are no more “stamps”. You get a little swipey card with a PIIN just like a debit card, so you no longer have to advertise your status to the entire grocery store. The maximum stipend for Food Stamps is $162 a month. We each get 2/3s of this,
So I might meet them again in our Zip Code’s food pantry. We’re lucky as sin. Not only do we deal with a wonderful social worker named Ruth, but also Our Lady of Mercy has a bread gathering operation that actually gets in some Panera day-old’s! This puts some variety and quality into the endless cans of sweet peas, jars of peanut butter, and smashed boxes of Wheat Thins.
Granmama is an “associate” at Garage and Garden wearing Blaze Orange and occasionally driving the funny forklift with the yellow backup light. Latisha flips mattresses and pulls sheets, for a dollar or so above minimum wage, at a Motel 6. When these fine employers have to cut staff in the recession, they’ll get half wages for six months in unemployment compensation. But their food stamps will probably go up. I’m luckier. Committee meetings are forever.
If this were Moose Hoof, Alaska, the Palins might be staying in the Motel 6 by default, but when they come to campaign in Columbus with Sarah speaking on the Statehouse steps, they’ll probably stay at the Hyatt Regency, since it’s so conveniently across the street. Unfortunately, Bristol and Latisha will never meet, not even the casual way that you pass by and say “good morning” to the maid and her cleaning cart in your accomodations.
You see Latisha and Granmama are poor. So am I.
Now there I go, just wash my mouth out with soap for saying the p-word. Even the professionals who deal with us [except for salty and forthright Ruth] don’t say the p-word. They say “low income” as in “low income housing”.
Actually the three of us were also at the Metropolitan Housing Authority on the day, a couple of years back, when the waiting list for Section 8 vouchers was opened for the first time in five years. The crowd was three city blocks in all directions and the police had to send five emergency black-and-white units just to control it. It’s good that we’re still on the waiting list. The Somali and Bosnian Muslim refugees are first, disableds are next, and single mothers after that.
Nobody says the p-word any more, and certainly not candidates for high public office. When those weighty discussions about the trials and tribulations of the Middle Class pick up steam, and they argue about whether their upper limit is $250,000 or $5 million net worth, all the candidates agree that these fine people are not “asking for a handout”–presumably like those lazy layabouts who used to clog up the grocery lines with their greasy Food Stamps.
You see we longer exist. Nobody speaks for us. Nobody speaks to us. Nobody speaks of us. Nobody even knows our names.