Motivation for the Marketplace
Motivation for the Marketplace
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The problems are real, complex, frightening and downright difficult.
It’s Time for Action…Together

    We’ve argued, debated, discussed, fought, pressured, editorialized, lobbied and analyzed for more than a decade. Almost everyone has an opinion about welfare, welfare reform, the “welfare state” and welfare recipients. Most of us who hold strong opinions don’t actually know much about welfare, and fewer of us actually know anyone who receives any kind of welfare benefits.

    For instance, did you realize the typical Texas welfare parents is a single, 30 year old mother of two? That she has twelve years or less in the educational system, and receives $188.00 per month in Aid to Families with Dependent Children (the basic welfare benefit) an annual income of about $2,250 for a family of three? Most people don’t.

    Details aside, the time has come for all of us to act. Congress passed and the President signed welfare reform legislation earlier this fall. The challenge of addressing the needs of poor people greets us at our front door.

    The new law shifts the burden from Washington to Austin and, even closer to home, to Dallas. The problems associated with poverty—and they are many—are now “our problems” as never before. Just this week a new study reported the fact that the United States has more children trapped in poverty than any other industrialized nation. An article in the September–October issue of the Harvard Business Review (“Toward an Apartheid Economy?” pages 114ff) describes the plight of “economically sinking workers” who work harder, longer and more hours for steadily declining wages. The problems are real, complex, frightening and downright difficult.

    The time has come for all of us to act, and act together. During the next 2-5 years, thousands of welfare recipients must move from public support into the crush of the marketplace, and that at a time of unique economic challenge. Approximately 700,000 Texans rely on the basic welfare benefit, costing Texas taxpayers around $500 million annually. Finding work will provide only part of the solution for these special people who present special needs. Welfare recipients need friends, support and partners.

    Last week Texas Comptroller, John Sharp, called a press conference in our building near downtown Dallas, His purpose was to announce the kick-off of his Family Pathfinders program and its partnership locally with the Greater Dallas Community of Churches. Family Pathfinders seeks to link individual welfare recipients with support groups of 3-6 people drawn from churches, synagogues, mosques, civic groups, service organizations and businesses.

    After receiving simple training, these supporting partners will link up with a welfare family as friends and allies. The supporting partners will assist their new friends with child care arrangements, housing questions, transportation dilemmas, simple listening, parenting skills, job referrals and networking. These important “adopting” support groups will not be there to provide money, but counsel and presence. Family Pathfinders seeks to build community for the sake of the poor, as well as the entire state.

    The partnership, the teamwork, and most of all, the commitment to building new friendships will be crucial to achieving genuine and lasting welfare reform. The time has come for all of us to take action. You and your group can start today. Call John Stoesz at the Community of Churches today (214-824-8680). Or if you prefer, call John Sharp’s office (1-800-355-PATH). Your action will speak louder than anyone’s words.


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