Three Voices on Welfare 'Deform' from the US Social Forum

This story is co-written by Vivian Hain,"Tiny" (Lisa Gray-Garcia), and Tracey Faulkner with Tara Lohan.

Overt 10,000 people attended the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, Georgia this week with the goal of forging a new country and the motto of "Another world is possible, another U.S. is necessary."

There were hundreds of workshops and events dealing with issues of poverty, injustice, environment, peace, media, art, relationships, marginalized peoples, and privilege, and much, much more.

One of the most amazing things happening at the forum was the Ida B. Wells Media Justice Center. The Center's goal was to "create media coverage of the USSF through a revolutionary journalistic model ... by providing unheard voices media access, co-authorship, on-site training, mentorship, facilitation, and support."

In essence -- true democratic media that is non-hierarchical, non- colonizing, grassroots. The driving force behind the Center was POOR Magazine, which was responsible for the Community Newsroom -- hooking up "poverty, race or disability scholars" with media folks to collaborate on getting important voices the chance to tell their stories.

Below is a small piece of a much larger story about three women and their children living in poverty in one of the richest areas of this country -- California's Bay Area.

Background information: Families on welfare in CA haven't seen a cost of living adjustment since 2004. California's Gov. Schwartzenegger is pushing to continue the freeze on cost of living adjustments for the next two years. He is also considering "full family sanctions," which were implemented in Texas. Currently in CA, after five years on welfare adults are cut off from support, but children are still given aid. Full family sanctions would leave children without any support as well. In Texas it has been disastrous.

Here's a story from Vivian Hain who is part of POOR Magazine, welfareQUEENS, Low Income Families Empowerment through Education, and hunger advocacy for Alameda County Food Bank.

Vivian Hain: I have not seen a cost of living adjustment since 2004. Before there was a freeze for two years. It was $679 for a family of four. In 2004 I fought for adjustments to go up to $723/month. Now in 2007 that is what I get to live on in Berkeley with my three kids.

I have not bought my kids news shoes or jackets or anything this year. They are four, six, and 13. I can't even walk into the kid's aisle in stores because I don't want to look at what I can't afford for them. It is demeaning to keep giving hand-me-down clothes and stale shoes -- especially to the youngest who has never had anything new. No parent should have to make that decision.

I used to shop lift when i had two in diapers ... I would fill up the diaper bag full of diapers. And I'd get that hot feeling of what if you got caught stealing and would they take your kids. You shouldn't to decide if your kid is going to have a wet diaper all night or you are going to go to jail.

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