Thursday, April 3, 2014

I Was Afraid to Write This Post

Oldest had just walked out to ride his bike to work. A woman approached him on the lawn. I thought she was a salesperson because she carried a clipboard and had one of those necklace style ID's. He usually knows better but he turned around and led her up the porch and opened the door to call me.

I walked out and closed the door behind me, like I always do. You can never be too careful these days. She was wearing faded jean capris, a purple shirt, and some sort of sandal.

I can no longer remember what my son told me. She waved her clear vinyl encased ID at me and indicated she was with the Department of Public and Social Services, was a welfare fraud investigator and demanded I let her in my home...

I don't know anyone who would willfully and cheerfully allow a perfect stranger into their home simply because they said you had to. She stated (in much less professional and much more bullying way) that I needed to let her into my home to prove that my husband does not live here. Ouch! Talk about adding insult to injury.

"I don't know who you are. I've never heard of this before. How is letting you into my home going to prove if my husband lives here or not?"
"I'm an investigator, I will know." {Does she have special powers? Is she going to look into my dresser to check if there are men's underwear in there? I mean, really.}

She spoke fast and with attitude. "Do you want to see my badge again? I am a peace officer and I work for the fraud department. If you don't let me in I am going to call your case worker and your cash aid, food stamps and benefits are going to be stopped immediately."
"That sounds threatening. I don't know what this is about. I never received a notice or heard about this before."
"This is a new thing."
"I don't know..."
"What benefits are you receiving?"
"Just food stamps."
"Who lives here?"
"Just me and my kids."
"How much is your income?"
"I personally, do not have any income."
"How much is your rent."
"Well, it just went up a few months ago, it's ____."
"Are the utilities included?"
"So how are you paying your rent if you don't have any income?"
"My husband pays the rent."
"Well, I need to see your living quarters."
"No, I am not going to do that. I already reported all of this. If you want proof why don't you go speak to my husband. I am sure he can give you proof of his address, utility bills with his name on it. He lives right up the street. Go talk to him."
"What is his address?"
"Let me see if I can remember it..." Under the circumstances, he's never officially given me his address. I've seen it on paycheck stubs and random paperwork occasionally. It was by the grace of God that it somehow came to mind and I relayed it to her.
"Well, you don't have to let me in but I'm going to call your case worker and your food stamps are going to stop immediately, today and it will go into affect retroactively and we will sue and you will have to pay back for all you have used in the past." She handed me her business card and walked away in a huff.

I started shaking and my eyes welled up with tears as I nearly hyper-ventilated.
"This is bull-shit! They can't do this. You don't have to do anything, she didn't have a warrant." Wow, I can't remember ever hearing my son use a curse word. I felt frantic and afraid. What just happened here?
I voiced my fearful thoughts, "I think they can do whatever they want. They have all the power and we have none because we are 'poor'."


I was afraid to post this for fear of judgment, shame, embarrassment of myself...and others. This is uncomfortable. Someone may read this and think, If you have nothing to hide then what's the big deal? Or someone may think, You are on welfare after all, what do you expect? Or maybe someone will simply make it much more personal than that and think I am lazy and should just get a job.

Then there are those that know me personally. Maybe they think I am an exception to the rule...because they know me. I am not like those other people. My family and I really need it. We are not like those mooches, drug addicts, and welfare queens who purchase lobster with their EBT cars, load up their groceries in Escalades and Lexus' sedans. But what if I was?

Do I then not have any rights? Am I not entitled to privacy? Or boundaries within my own place of residence? Was it not enough to give them all my bank account numbers and statements? Social security numbers? Driver license numbers? Birth certificates, marriage license, pay check stubs, rental agreement, title for my car, utility bills, signed affidavits declaring all the information I am providing is true and correct.

The right to dignity and respect as a human being? Was it not enough humiliation to have to go, for numerous appointments, and apply and ask for assistance to feed my family. To explain that my husband no longer lives in the home...that I have primarily been a Stay-At-Home-Mom for all my adult life, with little to no "work experience" that I can put down on paper to convince someone to hire me...or to love me fill out a stack of paperwork, at least an inch thick with every personal identifying number and piece of information known.

Now I have to allow a stranger to enter my home just because she says so. I have to endure being spoken to like I am a criminal? A liar? Dishonest? Because my household income is qualified by the government as being at the 'poverty level', it entitles another human being to try and bully and intimidate their way into my home? Into the privacy of my bedroom, my children's bedrooms?

Oh, but Katy you are different, I know a guy/woman/family that didn't even need help and were buying alcohol with my tax money!

NO! I am not different. I am quite the normal statistic. The majority demographic of those receiving food stamps are women and children. Why do you think that is? Oh but I knew a woman who was having more kids just to get more benefits. Yah, and I bet we can walk into any welfare office and find 45 more women who wish they weren't there. Who are scared, embarrassed and feel like complete failures but they have small stomachs to feed, so who cares how they feel! Right? Well, they just think they are entitled. Entitled? To what? Entitled to allow strangers to enter their home, mid-afternoon, while they are alone with their children? Are we, am I, not entitled or even allowed to feel safe and secure in my own home?

Do I not look poor enough to you? Everything I have, that appears to be a 'luxury', has been given to me. I have a really awesome life--because I choose to view it that way.

I don't have cable. I do have internet. I don't have a cell phone. I do have a home phone. My car is 10 years old and possibly on it's last leg...hanging on a wind and a prayer. It needs work right now. I ask around, we don't take it to the dealership or a mechanic. My brother sacrifices his day off to help my husband on his one day off, to remove the engine themselves to repair it, so that we only have to pay for parts. I don't have a gym membership. I go to free work outs in the park. I home-educate my school age kids. They are enrolled in a public charter school that allows them access to more than I could offer on my own, like fine art classes, music and voice lessons, and dance classes. I have a child with a learning disability. A very generous friend sacrifices her own time to tutor him privately free of charge. I don't buy books, I use the public library or score free books from amazon. I have an outdated Kindle, it's still black and white and is only used for books.

I make my own household cleaners from items that are considered food, like vinegar and baking soda. I make my own facial cleansers and make-up remover also from food items like brown sugar and coconut oil. I use coconut oil and sometimes baking soda to brush my teeth.

My family is very well dressed. How is that possible? Would you feel better if all their clothes looked like they were worn out or their shoes had holes in them? I sew many of my own dresses and skirts. I have clothes in my closet that are more years old than I'd care to admit. Friends bless my kids with awesome hand-me-downs. Yep, they are even name brands.

My family lives a rich life because I am resourceful. I take advantage of free events that expose them to Shakespeare and music and art. I take them out in nature to hike. If it appears we are doing something that would be considered a 'luxury', like visiting an amusement park or seeing a movie--it's because someone gifted admission to us.

Oh well, yah, my husband is around but has decided he no longer wants to be romantically involved with me. We have four kids together--he still pays some bills and helps with things like that. Is that suspicious? Does that make me fraudulent? I don't know how much money he makes as I no longer have access to that personal information. But I am going to be investigated?

THESE are the faces of the government's definition of poverty. 

Are we only entitled to rights, dignity and privacy, if we are paying for them?


  1. Anonymous7:37 AM

    Awww Katy :( sorry! I know who you work sacrifice to be there for those babies and have done a beautiful job! Your such a good momma! I'm sorry they are such jerks! It amazes me....they always bully the honest ones.....the ones that really need investigation are left alone. Best of all.... you have Jesus on you're side
    <3 Tisha

  2. Katie,

    My heart goes out to you. I know some of what you feel. When my husband was dying from cancer, we had to go on public assistance b/c he eventually became too sick to work. I had been a stay-at-home homeschool mom as well.

    I started work part-time at a library and eventually moved up to full-time. After a time I got a better job full-time with a different library system. I had to fight tooth and nail to get "food stamps". When I called about getting disability for my husband b/c he was dying from cancer I was told, "His condition will have to be verified." I said, "I can give you three doctors who will verify the information." Them- "We have to receive that officially through the mail. If he is approved, it will not begin for six months."

    It was a horrible experience. I was treated like trash, and I'll just be bluntly honest and say I believe it was b/c my skin was the wrong color. I am white, and I was treated horribly by the people in the DHS office while African-Americans were treated like royalty.

    I am sorry for what you have had to endure. I admire your courage. You are inspiring, and I appreciate you sharing your heart.


  3. Your faith and strength is inspiring.

  4. Katy, I feel for you. I really do. I wish people wouldn't be such jerks about things. You didn't deserve to be treated like this. I am praying for you, hon.


  5. Anonymous3:52 PM

    I hope you can contact the office and file a complaint of some sort. I am sure there will be an opportunity to appeal. You had no idea who this woman was who is she to demand to look in your bedroom WTF?
    hugs KIC

  6. It's very unreasonable for a stranger to think they should be permitted to enter your home without even a prior phone call. What if they were not who they claimed?!

  7. Your post really got to me. I'm also a single-mom not by choice and have gone through some similar but not as drastic experiences. It is a humbling place to be. i am constantly reminded to trust in Jesus who is so much bigger than these overwhelming circumstances I can see. I totally relate with you on living simply and the richness of life we enjoy in that simplicity. As I travel this new adventure of single momming it, I am always encouraged and thankful to "meet" and read about other woman who can relate. I blog about life, wholehearted living, and parenting at The Daily Rhythms of Life.


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