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June 14, 1975 - Image 7

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1975-06-14

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Soturdoy, June 14, 1975

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Page Seven

I Saturday, June 14, 1975 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Seven

which tries to help welfare recipients pull themselves
out of the welfare trap - Social Intake. It consists of
a variety of programs aimed at welfare families;
foster care, day care, health service, legal aid, adop-
tion and employment agencies, family planning, edu-
cational services, homemaker services, home manage-
ment, housing improvement and transportation serv-
ices. All of them are free and optional to anyone on
public assistance. But clients must go to them if they
want help. Social Intake does not contact recipients.
Carmel Jordon is a social worker in housing im-
provement. Her job is to find low rent homes for her
clients, and management companies who will rent to
welfare families. Housing in Prince George County is
tight, and so this part of Carmel's job is neither easy
nor pleasant.
BUT TI-ERE is another aspect of her job which is
not specified in her contract with the county, or
advertised in any of the brightly colored booklets So-
cial Intake distributes. Carmel visits her clients regu-
larly-sometimes, depending on how they feel about
her and how well they can do without her, as often
as once or twice a week. Usually, they do little wel-
fare business, and mostly they just talk. Carmel gives
advice whenever she can. She acts as a voluntary
counselor, and it is what she likes best about her
work.
Dorothy Bellamie is a client Carmel often sees.
They are almost friends now, except for the bureau-
cratic barrier looming between all workers and their
clients. Recently, Dorothy, her baby daughter and their
dog moved into a cheap, modern apartment which
Carmel helped them find. The rent takes up most of
Dorothy's monthly welfare check, but she has seven

"Well, Dorothy," Carmel began, "Have you heard
from your husband?"
"Yes indeed. In fact I saw him last Saturday, and
you know what? He was with another woman." She
looked meaningfully at Carmel.
"You see," Carmel said to me. "Dorothy is afraid
that he's going to get involved with another woman."
"AND YOU know what," Dorothy continued. "He
had the gall to call me up to get him outa' trouble.
Him and that woman! He got stuck down at that new
shopping center and got me to pick him up.
"Well, I did it, and all three of us came back here
and sat for about an hour. She sat right over there.
He was cocky as could be, but he wasn't drunk. She
was though. But then he got up and said to her, "Well,
let's go," and they left. I haven't heard from him
since." Mute for a moment she gazcod out the window.
"Now I'm afraid to go see him," 'he, said finally.
"Why?" Carmel said quietly, lighting a cigarette.
"Are you afraid you're losing him?"
"WELL, with this baby an' all I'm sorts stuck. He
knows he's got me wrapped around his little finger. All
he has to do is call, and I'll come running. I always
do," she laughed.
"Isn't that just like a mother?" Carmel asked.
"Sure. You see," Dorothy said, turning to me,
"Mrs. Jordan thinks I'm Jim's mother image. Maybe
I am."
"Maybe you should let him get himself out of
trouble," Carmel said, prodding again. "Maybe he'd
grow up and respect you more."
"Maybe I should, maybe I should say 'Jim get your-

ity clerks office. But that will take a while, and you
on't be able to get your check until next month. But
ere, you can get food stamps and ..."
"Oh thank you, thank you so much," the girl cried
s she jumped up in her excitement and relief.
"WAIT, WAIT, wait. You can get a Medicaid card
oo. Now listen, when your baby is born you come back
ere and we'll fix your check so you can get com-
ensation for him too, alright?"
"Oh yes ma'am, and thanks again."
Smiling, Mrs. Kornegay watched her disappear into
nother office. "That's nice. That's what makes me
ike this job-when I can help people like that, people
vho need help. Because, you know, it could happen to
iy of us. Our hard times will come."
IF THE YOUNG woman manages to get her docu-
aentation in order she will receive a monthly check of
oughly $140. Medicaid will take care of the basic
nedical costs when her child is born and if it becomes
ick-but barely. Physicians receive a minimum fee
rom the government for their patients on Medicaid.
Consequently, some doctors have been known to
queeze four, five, or six Medicaid patients into half
an hour to make up for the lost revenue.
The young woman who left Mrs. Kornegay's desk,
>ouyed by the small pittance from the government,
till return again desperate for more public assistance.
She and her child will have a hard time surviving on
heir small allotment. Eventually, she too will despise
he welfare office and what it stands
Past a row of brown elevators in the basement of
he County Building is the other half of Prince George
ounty's Department of Social Services; the half
Photos by
PAULINE LUBENS

The
Saturday
Magazine

dollars left over for foodstamps.
Dorothy went on welfare after she left her hus-
band, Jim, an alcoholic presently trying to kick his
drinking problem in an institution. Dorothy loves him,
but fears his vicious temper and his sudden unexplain-
able rages which invariably occur when he's drunk.
"IT'S A fifty-fifty chance at this point whether
she'll take him back," Carmel told me as we en-
tered Dorothy's dank smelling apartment building.
"I keep telling her not to until he stops drinking, but
who knows what she'll do?"
Dorothy's living room was small, cheap, and mod-
ern. The dog barked wildly from a back room, and
the air was thick with the smell of sour baby.
The baby's wail joined the bark of the dog as Doro-
thy entered the room, saying "OOh! Is she ever mad
at me. This happens every day."

self outa' this mess."' Dorothy smiled. "But I never
do."
"You left him, didn't you?"
"BUT THAT was for the baby. He'd come home
drunk and go wild. It was scary! Times like that, I'd
just pick up the baby and leave. One time I slapped
him, though. Surprised him a lot, but later he said
it was the best thing I coulda' done.
"So what's it going to be. Are you going to take
him back?"
"I don't know. I got to talk to his counselor next
Monday. Maybe I can get some money from him at
the same time. I got this fifty dollar phone bill. You
know, I get lonely, so I call my friend in Montgomery
County, and we talk and talk and talk. So I gotta pay
up. I don't know how though. My mama won't give me
any more money."
"What are you going to do?"
"WELL, I'll get some from Jim, and I'll get Mom
to get me some. I might get this telephone soliciting
job, an' that'll be good 'cause I can stay here with the
baby while I work." I wouldn't mind that, sitting here
and making telephone calls all day," she shrugged.
"If you get that job, tell me, and I'll see about
getting you a supplement for expenses if you need it."
Dorothy threw back her head and laughed: "I don't
know if I'll need it then, but I sure could use it now!"
Dorothy's dream, Carmel told me later, is to live
and work on a farm with a couple of dogs and a
horse. An alcoholic husband and a telephone soliciting
job is a long way from that farm.
HOWEVER, with Carmel, at least she can talk
about it and bend a willing ear to her troubles.
But that's all Carmel can do for her.
As we left the apartment building, Carmel pointed
out a little girl who leaned out the window of her
house across the street.
"THAT child is always there when I leave here,"
she said. I'm pretty sure that her mother works and
leaves the kids alone in the house all day. They're not
allowed to go out, at least what the neighbors say.
I think I'm going to have to .report her for child
neglect."
"What will happen?" I asked.
"Well, they'll probably make her quit her job so
she can take care of them. Or else they'll have to take
custody of them. Oh well," she sighed. "Another fami-
ly for public assistance."
As we drove away, The girl stretched her full
length out the window to watch us go, and just be-
fore we turned the corner, she began to wave fran-
tically.

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