picture of tornado damage in Wichita KS May 1999 - taken by Fran Meservy

Why Sodom was Really destroyed By Frances M. McCrory-Meservy Jan 2007

First let me say I am 63 years old and have voted in every Presidential election and most other elections since I was 21 years old (that was the age you had to be to vote back then). I have always voted Republican. I am a card toting Republican.

For 8 years I managed mobile homes communities and found myself trying to find help for the poor people in these communities. In other words I was in the trenches taking them to free clinics, catholic charities and other places trying to get them the help they needed when the welfare programs were cut and left them to fall through the cracks. These were not people who were trying to rip off anyone. These were people who were just trying to survive and take care of their families. I saw the suffering first hand and I can tell you the following article is the truth.

A year ago the Republican party called me and asked me if there was anything the government run by them (paraphrased) was doing that I did not like. I told them that the Republican party had gone too far in welfare reform and I was thinking of voting for a Democrat for the first time in my life. I asked if she was writing that down and she said, "Yes mam - I am." She asked about Iraq and I said that was an honest mistake. I also told her I am for the war on terror. We can't just sit back and do nothing. We need to go after terrorists.

If for some reason you think it is not important to take care of the poor in this country, maybe you need to know the final straw that caused God to destroy Sodom.


Jude 1:6-8 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.

Isa 3:9 The look on their countenance witnesses against them, And they declare their sin as Sodom; They do not hide it. Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves.

Now according to the above scriptures God should destroy this country. Why hasn't He? Could it be because in the past we have taken care of the poor among us?

Ezek 16:46-50 Your older sister was Samaria, who lived to the north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom. You not only walked in their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they. As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done. Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Gen 18:20-21 And the LORD said, " Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, "I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.


If anyone thinks that poor people are not crying out to God because of their poverty, think again.

Jan. 28, 2007, 12:34AM
The cost of cutting welfare

Nearly one in four children lives in poverty, and the number is rising as fewer families get monthly assistance

By JANET ELLIOTT and TERRI LANGFORD
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN When Texas became one of the first states in the nation to overhaul welfare by insisting the poor work, the governor made a bold prediction.

"I believe this bill will make Texas a much better place," Gov. George W. Bush said at the June 1995 bill signing.

If issuing fewer welfare checks means better, then Texas has succeeded. But Texas' welfare-to-work success masks a growing poverty problem that, critics say, has little to do with the writing of paltry checks and much to do with the state's historical resistance to offering services to those in need.

More than a decade after Bush signed the bill into law, the number of people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, check has fallen 73 percent.

Today, fewer than 5 percent, or about 173,000 of the state's 4 million poor children and adults, receive checks, a maximum of $223 monthly for a mother and two children.

Officials appear on track to eliminate the traditional welfare check for good.

"That would be my goal," said Larry Temple, executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission, the agency tapped to move welfare recipients into the work world. "To work us out of that job, that would be a great success."

However, those who work with single mothers and their children the group targeted by welfare reform say a state that has increasing numbers of poor and less help for those families isn't a better place.

"We've ended welfare as we know it, but we haven't done anything about poverty," said Barbara Best, Texas executive director of the Children's Defense Fund. "I can't imagine what the future of this state will be like if we don't start investing in families and children."

Texas has moved thousands of poor single mothers into the work force, but their average wage of $7.19 an hour isn't lifting them out of poverty. Officials say that benefits, including child care, Medicaid, federal tax credits and food stamps, help provide a safety net, but charities often have to fill the needs of these women, who represent the majority of those on welfare.

Five years ago, 3.1 million individuals were living below federal poverty levels.

By 2005, more than 17 percent of Texans were living below federal poverty levels, with 800,000 more living in poverty than in 2000, pushing the total Texas poverty picture toward 4 million. And nearly one in four children now lives in a poor household, making Texas the fifth-worst state for child poverty.

Poorer children are more likely to arrive at school unprepared to learn. If they fail and drop out, their job prospects are severely limited. Or, they may become parents who are unable to properly care for their children.

"If we are raising children that have less access to education, less access to health care, we're not going to be building ourselves a particularly strong future," said Laura Lein, a University of Texas social work professor who has studied welfare reform and concluded that most of the families remain impoverished.

Celia Hagert, a welfare-policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, agrees.

"The kids we care so much about now, if we don't take care of, will grow up into the adult welfare recipients we disparage," Hagert said.

But Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, a Kerrville Republican who authored the 1995 bill, said he's satisfied that lawmakers did change the culture of dependence and replace it with one that relied on work.

"At this point, the reduction in welfare rolls is a resounding and unquestionable success," he said.

Hilderbran blames some of the growth in poverty on illegal immigration, which is borne out by demographic trends. (Illegal immigrants cannot receive TANF funds, and very few legal ones can.)

If the trends don't change particularly education levels of the state's blacks and Hispanics Texas will be poorer and less competitive in the future, said Steve Murdock, the state's demographer.

The state's poverty problem has even the business community concerned.

Former San Antonio Mayor Howard Peak noted that Toyota could fill only about half of the highest-skilled positions required for its new Tundra assembly line from the area's work force. He worries that the lack of qualified workers could prevent businesses from locating in Texas and also leave the state without a vibrant market for the products that companies make.

Texans need to move away from thinking of early childhood development and job training for adults as just social programs, says Peak, executive director of external affairs for AT&T.

He wants lawmakers to fund expanded pre-K programs.

"This is really an economic development initiative that's vital to the well-being of our state," Peak says.

Long wait for child care

When Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the five-year lifetime limit on welfare in the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, it allowed states to use federal welfare funds for other programs besides cash assistance.

Texas legislators have used an increasing share to shore up foster care and child protective services, which now account for 43 percent of the $539 million federal grant.

Since the initial welfare-to-work bill, Texas lawmakers also have adopted some of the most restrictive policies for the state's poorest residents in terms of asset limits, eligibility requirements and low payments.

Only the poorest $2,350 annual income for a family of three can qualify for cash welfare, or TANF.

The Houston Chronicle examined only TANF benefits because they are directed to the poorest of the poor. Also, the state has the most discretion over how TANF dollars are used, unlike Medicaid or food-stamp money.

Texas failed to invest sufficiently in job training and child care programs that may have helped families thrive instead of merely survive, advocates for the poor say, and it has adopted harsh sanctions that cut off cash to children when their parents fail to comply with work and other requirements.

Mothers moving from welfare to work get subsidized child care. But 30,000 other children whose parents qualify for child care assistance are on a waiting list.

The state chronically ranks among the lowest in social services funding. Some blame it on the state's beginnings, founded as it was by tough pioneers who preached a sort of frontier self-reliance. Until the 1970s, the amount of the state budget that could be spent on welfare and other social programs was locked into the Texas Constitution.

"In Texas, the attitude is people are strong and they're able, and they can pull themselves up with their bootstraps," said Angela Blanchard, president and CEO of Neighborhood Centers Inc., which operates a network of centers offering assistance to low-income Houstonians.

Christopher King, director of the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources at the University of Texas, said the state has had a safety net, "but it was for those doing agriculture and extraction. But we didn't have a safety net for the people on the low end of the labor market."

What King sees in Texas and in many states is a numbers game designed to avoid the tough work of reducing poverty.

"The promise of welfare reform never came about," said King, who has studied welfare programs for years. "No one is climbing out of the low-wage ghetto."

Before the welfare reform of the mid-1990s, about two-thirds of all single mothers with children younger than 18 were employed, King says. Now, 80 percent of single mothers with children are in the labor market.

Role of nonprofits

When poor adults, particularly those with children, have found themselves without money or a roof over their heads, it has been nonprofits who have often come to their rescue with a more complete array of support.

Five years ago, medical resident Alicia Wong and her 2-year-old daughter, Maggie, found themselves on the street after she and her husband separated.

"He threw us out of the house and said, 'Don't come back,' " Wong recalled.

With only $200 in a checking account and no way to pay for day care, she had to pull out of her medical residency program to find a job with more flexible hours.

After a few weeks of living in friends' living rooms and working at a local flea market, where she could bring her child, Wong applied for TANF benefits.

"Nobody in my family has ever been on welfare," Wong said.

It was made clear from the moment she sat down with a caseworker that she was to find a job within 30 days. In exchange, she would receive free day care and a monthly subsidy of $172.

That day care, courtesy of the state, allowed Wong to work.

"To me, that's what's got us on our knees," Wong said of how a lack of child care plays a role in poverty. "Day care."

With her child care needs met, she found seasonal work at two stores in an Austin shopping mall. But the jobs each paid about $6.25 an hour were not enough to provide the deposit and first month's rent most apartments required.

That's when a local Catholic church directed Wong to St. Louise House, a project that helps single mothers find housing.

Through them, Wong was able to land an efficiency apartment for $80 a month plus the utility bills.

Still, the apartment was a terrific step forward for her. "From there, we just stabilized," Wong said.

Today, Wong works for the state, reviewing disability claims. She and her daughter still live in housing subsidized in part by another nonprofit, and her daughter thrives in an after-school program overseen by the organization.

"We would have been out of luck (without nonprofits)," Wong said. "These people filled in the gaps."

Texas' approach toward social welfare issues can appear disingenuous to some, considering the state's willingness to loosen purse strings when it comes to incentives for big businesses.

In the past few years, Gov. Rick Perry has committed more than $300 million in grants to companies including Citgo, Home Depot, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and Tyson Foods. In 2003, the Legislature spent $15 million to help build a railroad line to serve Toyota.

"This is corporate welfare, and people are angry about helping people who are dirt-poor who are taking care of their children," said Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.

Critical juncture

With Congress pushing the states to move even more people off the welfare rolls, Texas lawmakers are at a critical point.

Advocates for the poor and some legislators want the state to do a better job identifying the barriers that prevent parents from working and addressing those needs.

Other lawmakers and limited-government groups want to continue the get-tough policies that cut families off cash assistance for failing to participate in work programs, get their children immunized or stay off drugs and alcohol.

"We've been able to move low-income people into low-wage jobs, but little attention or money has been devoted to helping former welfare recipients advance in the work force to the kinds of higher-paying jobs that would move these individuals out of poverty," says Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin.

Chronicle reporter Chase Davis in Houston contributed to this report; Terri Langford reported from Houston.


Janet.elliott@chron.com

terri.langford@chron.com


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