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Need doesn’t know county lines

Posted by Iahmed on May 12, 2010

The Michigan Department of Human Services continued its efforts this week to bust myths about welfare, myths that are tarnishing the good that welfare offers to Michigan’s vulnerable residents.

The Detroit event featured Dana Weeks, a client receiving food assistance benefits, who knows that some people equate welfare to shame. It is an unfortunate truth that the DHS is striving to change.

And even though Weeks never imagined needing assistance at 57, he is not embarrassed to use his Bridge card at the grocery store – an act that makes many people hide their faces. Rather, he is thankful because he knows he would be worse off without the $200 a month he receives to fill his pantry.

“I know it’s temporary,” said the Detroit resident. “It’s a blessing. For some people, a lot of pride gets in the way, but welfare is there for them to fall back on.”

Weeks’ message is important. And it’s one that every Michigan resident must hear because the economic pain is being felt everywhere.

There is a belief that welfare recipients only live in poor, urban areas, while people living in the suburbs or wealthier areas of the state are immune to today’s economic struggles. This is a myth.

Trust me when I say that need does not discriminate. It does not recognize race, gender, religion, and certainly not whether a person lives in Detroit or Bloomfield Hills.

Michigan residents are struggling to put food on their tables and pay their bills in communities statewide. The DHS has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of families seeking temporary assistance, including those who live in Michigan’s more affluent suburban communities.

For example, communities such as Dearborn Heights, Livonia, St. Clair Shores and Bloomfield Hills each saw more than 60 percent increases in the number of people coming to us for food assistance. For Medicaid, each community saw more than a 30 percent increase.

Foreclosures are also affecting some of southeast Michigan’s more prosperous counties. Home foreclosures in most of these counties – Livingston, Macomb and Oakland – exceeded the statewide increase of 66.7 percent from 2005 to 2009.

Welfare recipients certainly do not only live in the state’s poor, urban areas. They come from all walks of life and live in communities statewide.

Consider that myth busted.

We prefer to deal with the facts because misunderstandings lead to myths, which create a stigma that may keep people truly in need – those with young children or the elderly – from asking for help. We want to put an end to that.

I encourage you to visit www.michigan.gov/welfare101 to learn the truth about welfare.

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