ALAN POLK HEMPHILL
In my attempts to communicate with liberals regarding welfare and the homeless, I think I will try to see if we can agree upon anything. If we can find one thing on which we agree, perhaps we can expand the area of agreement.
I propose that liberals examine the following situation to see if we can reach agreement on this one proposition. Resolved: that Jacqueline Williams should not get one more cent of government assistance.
Strangely, I think that many liberals, if not most, may agree. Let me set the scene;
Veronica Williams was a homeless woman of about 35, with 14 children, living in a shelter in Washington, D.C., in 1987. She had some income from the Social Security system as a result of her husband's death in 1983, but she was homeless.
Veronica Williams made the national news in 1987 when she was engaged in public conversation at the homeless shelter by the Mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry. Mayor Barry asked her, " Why don't you stop having all those babies?" No matter how you may view that question, the impertinence of the question brought national press coverage, including a stint on the Donahue Show where she had the opportunity to debate the Washington Mayor.
The nation's press brought so much light to her plight that the city felt the pressure to get her out of the homeless shelter and into a home of her own. The city approached a Mr. Bradley, who had just remodeled his rental at a cost of $42,000, and convinced him to rent his home to Mrs. Williams, her unemployed husband, and her 14 children. Mrs. Williams said, "I just want to start something new, to live in a decent place and raise my kids with respect." That was in December, 1987. The city paid $1,084 per month (70% of her rent), plus child care services, free medical and dental care, and $600 a month in food stamps.
In the intervening two years, the welfare workers attempted to give Mrs. Williams counseling, but she refused to let them into her house. She told the press earlier this month: "I'm all for help. But don't come into my home dipping into my life. I'm a grown woman. I don't wanna be treated like a government recipient."
Several weeks ago, the city condemned the house, and Mrs. Williams is demanding a new house. The only thing left in the kitchen is the proverbial kitchen sink - but it sits on the floor. The refrigerator is gone. The stove is gone. The cabinets and counters are gone. The furniture the city provided in the rest of the house is gone. There are holes in the walls, the floors, even the ceiling. One bathtub has standing, stagnant water. The city estimates that there is about $40,000 in damage to the 7-bedroom house, but the city refuses to be responsible for the repair of any of the damage. In fact the city says the house is now not satisfactory as a dwelling unit, although it has not been condemned, and has ended their payments to the owner!
Mrs. Williams is about $2,700 in arrears to the city in water bills, and five months behind in her portion of the rent, $243 a month.
The city has removed 10 of her children to protective custody, and will require her to be re-certified for assistance. Her oldest child was killed in a gun accident since she moved in the house, but she has subsequently had another baby by her new husband.
And Mrs. Willams? She says, "If that house was built stronger than it was, I don't believe things would have gone down like that."
Mrs. Williams demands new housing, saying, "What I need is a steady house," explaining that 14 children will naturally cause some damage regardless of how careful they are.
I say that it is time that the city say a resounding, "NO."
What do the liberals say?
Published in the Bernardo News
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