A Glimpse Into The Social Assistance Experience


If you’ve never needed it, I doubt you’ve thought a great deal about what it would be like to be on the receiving end of the Social Assistance experience. Your knowledge and assumptions are probably based on what you hear in the news when an individuals’ story is profiled, from a candidate around election time or perhaps you’ve got a friend or family member who has shared a little of their own experience.

It has been my great honour and privilege to serve and support those receiving such benefits in two Municipalities; Toronto and Durham in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario for a total of 21 years and counting. In addition to this experience, my wife has 16 or so years of experience herself working in another municipality. While my experience is extensive, I’ve never been on the receiving end myself, and I hope the choices I’ve made and continue to make into the future don’t land me in such need.

That being said, if the time comes when I’m in need, I know now that I’d be thankful the support system was there to help get me through such times until once more I became financially self-sufficient.

It can be a very demeaning and embarrassing process to apply for welfare. In Ontario Canada it’s referred to now as Ontario Works, but to many in receipt, it is and will always be welfare.  It all starts with a phone call to apply in which someone in need talks to someone in what is akin to a call centre. The conversation while initiated by someone in need is pretty much led by the receiving employee asking preset questions. Full name, address, SIN and Health numbers, rent/mortgage information, family members, assets, banking information, investments, etc.; all of which will need to be verified at an in-person meeting to determine eligibility.

I get that it can strip one of their pride and self-worth. With every document you hand over to some stranger, with every disclosure of your personal circumstances such as whether you’ve been abused or the name of your child’s father or mother and where they might be, you give up a little dignity. While most in this field are very good at getting this information in a caring compassionate way, no amount of empathy can change that stuff you’d normally keep private and confidential must be fully disclosed.

Now the agenda of the person in need is pretty clear. Almost all the time, there’s a stated desperation present or looming; rent and food. Get approved and the rent gets paid and people eat. Get denied and a missed rental payment eviction and hunger, a visit from the child welfare authorities, homelessness, begging and worse, having to steal to survive.

If as my piece began you’ve not had to experience social assistance, maybe you’re completely unaware of the community resources you’ll have to tap into. Where would you find the kitchens, thrift stores, donation centers, etc.? If you needed your ID replaced to get many of these benefits, would you know where to go and remember it’s likely you’d have to walk or take public transportation; taking your child or children with you everywhere if you were a sole support parent without a trusted, reliable childcare provider.

Now meeting with us in Social Services for many is a good experience in the end. However, in those first few meetings, the anxiety and stress of anticipating what that experience will be like is often influenced by past meetings and stereotypes of government workers. Just as you’ve no doubt got frustrated with being put on hold, re-directed, not getting through to the person you need to talk to etc. when calling for help yourself, the experience can be like that for some. What increases the importance of getting through is the immense pressure and stress of failing to get the help asked for.

Look there are a lot of really good, compassionate and empathetic people in the business of providing social assistance recipients with support. While these are good qualities, what’s really needed in addition are people both knowledgeable and able to share that same knowledge of resources needed in any one person’s situation. Whether it’s a benefit we can issue ourselves or a benefit another service provider offers, connecting people with what they need is imperative.

On the receiving end, people want to be heard, respected, treated with dignity and foremost be a person; not a case, not a number and no, not a client. Most aren’t in receipt by choice. On top of their financial needs, many have multiple barriers to employment including gaps in work history, mental health challenges, anxiety, low self-esteem. You’d be surprised though to find highly educated professionals in receipt of help; people with their Masters and Degrees perhaps. Yes, really.

Hopefully, supporting people in need is done in the way we would wish to be treated were it us on the other side of the table or end of the phone. “Do onto others…” And while we may have our hopes and plans for people, it’s critical to listen and figure out where someone is at any given moment. I mean, are they ready to job search? Would job searching just set them up to fail at the moment? Do they need stable housing first, addiction intervention, counselling, or maybe to volunteer to rebuild a shattered confidence?

Just the briefest glimpse into this experience.

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She Might Be Someone You Know


There’s a lot to unpack, note and commend in her story.

Here’s the quick summary, name withheld. Woman leaves Lebanon with her husband, leaving behind 5 siblings along with her mom and dad; a close and loving family. Arriving in Canada, she is pregnant and speaks two languages, neither one of which is English. She knows no one beyond her husband in this new land, and soon finds that things are changing.

Here in Canada, she not only knows no one, she’s not ‘allowed’ to meet new people; and whereas in Lebanon she held a job as a Childcare provider complete with a College Diploma, here it’s pointless because she’s entirely supported by her husband. After the child turns two, he walks out, leaving her with no income, no friends, no job, no idea of where she stands financially, and no prospects.

She is well aware of other women who like her ended up being divorced here in Canada and in each case they had returned to their families in Lebanon. Her choice however has been to stay in Canada to give her son – now 13 years-old with a better future; putting his future ahead of her own wish to be reunited with her family.

So that’s it in a nutshell. What I learned beyond this bare-bones story is that in the 11 years since the husband walked out, she took the initiative to enrol in English as a Second Language classes, and now has full command of a third language. She’s also visited and continuously makes use of a Welcome Centre to learn about programs and services to improve her situation. Her son is still completely in the dark about their status as Social Assistance recipients. She doesn’t want to burden him with that knowledge and have him feel shame and embarrassment. When I heard her tell me this I wanted to tell her that she should trust his judgement and he might just surprise her with his understanding and respect for her in spite of being  on social assistance, but I kept silent as that’s not call to say so.

I then asked her a question which brought her to a full stop and tears to her eyes – although it was not my intention to do so. I asked, “So what do you do that’s just for you, not your son – just you?” Not surprisingly she said, “Nothing.” Now why you might wonder is this not a surprise to me? Well, it’s been my experience that many women who have been isolated by their partners are entirely devoted to their children; their children being everything that they live for. There is often nothing they do for themselves because any extra income goes to extra-curricular activities that the children are involved with. Sure enough, soccer and buying the things that teenage boys want and/or need to be socially ‘in’ consumes these things. Reading for pleasure isn’t something she does but she reads a lot of legal papers, government memo’s, social assistance letters etc. – and all of these she hides from the eyes of her son lest he pause to wonder if they are on welfare.

For a second time in our conversation I brought her to tears. You’d think I was going out of my way to do so! Such was not the case, but it happened. After hearing her story I said how much I admired what she’d accomplished on her own, getting established independent of her ex-husband, raising her child, committing to living in a country when all her family was back in Lebanon, learning about various services and what brought us together, her decision to attend an interview preparation workshop. Of course what I said that really got the tears flowing was that I wasn’t just proud of what she’d accomplished but that I was proud of her.

So why the tears? Years and years of being put down and told she’d never amount to anything; that she wasn’t important and no one would ever care whether she’d live or die hammered home low self-esteem. This you see is why I believe she doesn’t do anything just for herself – something that people with a healthy self-image regularly do. If you’ve been told you’re nothing and you’ve come to believe you’re nothing, then you do nothing that’s just for you; you don’t deserve it. Nonsense of course, but it takes a long, long time for some people to alter that belief system.

Apparently I am the first person in all the time she’s been in Canada who has said good things about her. That I felt, extremely humbling and even more a sad state of affairs. Mid-forties, in good shape, excellent attention to her appearance, a beautiful smile and equally good manners. A dedicated parent putting her child’s needs and happiness above her own.

Here’s another thing. Does she lay her burden on her parents back home in Lebanon with crying and how difficult life has been and continues to be? No. In fact, she’s no one to share with, no intimate friend to vent or confide in; all this bottled in and heaven only knows what else.

So the point? She’s not the only one. Be kind, be considerate, be above all compassionate and non-judgemental. You can bet that this woman’s story is playing out everywhere not just one isolated person I came into contact with.

The Benefits Of Work


“Why would I want to work?”

I had a man ask me this question yesterday. I couldn’t tell if he was be sarcastic, flippant or genuinely asking for a couple of seconds. However I tried, the usual visual cues weren’t there for me to pick up on. He didn’t have a wry smile, wasn’t folding his arms across his chest in defiance or really give anything away; so I took him as seriously asking and found out shortly I’d been right to do so.

After I gave him some of the many benefits and reasons people work, I started to think that there had to be others like him. So, this is for the ones who really don’t understand why people would choose to work. Please add your own reasons in the comments section.

  1. Purpose. Waking up in the morning feeling you’re contributing to something, or making the lives of others better in the work that you do gives one’s life meaning. Without purpose, a person can feel aimless, lost, lacking direction. Waking up and wondering what you’ll do with your day is nice occasionally, but as a fixed routine can lose its appeal quickly.
  2. Contribution. This can be a hard sell to someone who feels that the world owes them a living. Contributing your skills, experience, knowledge, wisdom, failures and successes with others actually gives back in many ways. If you don’t like the current way things are done in some area, get involved and work to change what you see could be better. Change from within and not from a distance is very effective.
  3. Learn. When you learn you grow, when you’re ripe you rot. Learning doesn’t just happen the first few days and weeks on a job. Some of the smartest people I know realize that learning happens every day in some way. Whether it’s in some small way or a huge change in how one does their work, learning never stops. When you’re not working, this can be impossible for some to grasp.
  4. Responsibility. Being responsible isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, this accountability can be extremely beneficial. A worker is but a part of a larger group of workers, and mutual responsibility means showing up on time with regularity and punctuality. It means being depended upon and counted on to add to an organization and in so doing lighten the load of others; bring your gifts to projects and make things better.
  5. Income. Not number one; but yes work provides income. Income alone isn’t what it’s about but rather, what income allows you to buy or invest in. Living where you choose, in accommodations that don’t just protect you from the elements but enhance your appreciation of the world around you. Money gives you the means to travel, eat better, visit those people and places that add to the richness of your life.
  6. Good mental health. Work is good for your brain; your mental stability; your intellect and what it wards off. Work and you stave off some anxiety and depression. You get more control of yourself and the world you experience. As you work, your brain cells get stimulated, you enrich your days and have things to talk about at day’s end that you’ve accomplished, struggled with, experienced and been a part of.
  7. Self-Confidence. Work and you’ll feel good about yourself. There’s that first pay cheque, the moments when the boss tells you you’re doing well, you complete something without having to be shown how, you create a product or give great service. “I can do this!” is a great feeling.
  8. Inclusion. You ward off isolation when you work because you’re part of a company, you work on a team, you interact better with those around you; feel like you’re a part of a group and yes, you are needed and appreciated. Whether a second family or not, your co-workers can become people you actually care about, and yes, they’ll care about you too.
  9. Self-control. When you work, you decide how much to spend and how much to save. You decide what to buy and what to save up for too. When someone far away is ill or you just want to see your family who live far away you have the means to get there. Save some each pay and you’ll have the money to get by if there’s a downturn in the economy, you get laid off, or you want to change jobs.
  10. Physical health. Work means physical exertion and movement. Not only is that good, but if you get ill, you’ll either have a health plan through an employer or have the money to invest privately in health care if you choose. Now you have the money to eat healthier foods, eat regularly and eat guilt-free.

There are many reasons to work and these 10 aren’t the entire list. Yes, there are people who don’t work and depend entirely on the generosity of others to live. They work in a very real sense too of course; some begging for handouts, others collecting beer cans and bottles to exchange. Some live on social assistance, dependent entirely on governments and taxpayers to decide their income. It is possible to go through one’s life and not ‘work’ in the traditional sense.

Work doesn’t mean you’re miserable for 7 or more hours a day. It is for many a rich, rewarding use of their time they appreciate.

Fed Up Being Unemployed


Okay let’s start with the premise that you’re fed up. I mean you’ve grown so frustrated with trying to get a meaningful job that pays well that it’s left you confused on how to succeed and bitter. It seems no matter what you tried in the past, no matter who you applied to for a job, in the end the result was the same; you’re not wanted.

Seems to me that hearing the message, “Just keep trying” rings kind of hollow. How many times can you be expected to keep at it hoping for a better result? So you give up. Then after having packed it in you start feeling that it’s worth it to try again. Why? Usually it’s because the life you’ve got at the moment isn’t the one you want for yourself; you deserve better and you’re motivated to try again until you ultimately succeed or you give up once more.

Maybe you’d be open to hearing a few words of encouragement? If so, I’d like to offer you some. I suppose the first thing I’d like to say is that it is a good sign that you aren’t content to keep living the way your are now. That feeling that you want more is the seed of Hope that’s buried deep in your core. ‘Hope’ my dear reader, is at the core of so many people’s thoughts who push off from some known shore for the great journey’s they embark on. Hope is what causes them to leave the safe and known for the uncertainty and yet-to-be discovered.

Now keeping with that image of some adventurer embarking on a journey; the early stages of a journey involve traveling through the norm. The sailor who sets to some unknown land far away first has to get beyond the waters that are well chartered. The hiker deviating from some known path had to first hike what they knew to get to the point where they chose something previously passed up on.

It’s the same with you and your job search. You rely on what you know when it comes to looking for a job until you come across some better way of going about it. This makes absolute sense. However, just like the hiker and the explorer decided at some point to do something they’d never before done, it also stands to reason that you should do something you’ve never done if you expect the results to be more satisfying than you’ve experienced. Going about looking for a meaningful job the way you’ve gone about it in the past is likely to end with similar results; results you don’t want to experience again.

It’s important to realize that you’re not at fault or to blame for going about things the way you are; even if you later realize a number of mistakes you are made. After all, until someone introduces a better way, a more effective way of getting you where you want to be, the only way you’d have succeeded entirely on your own is through trial and error, until you lucked out on whatever works. That seems pretty high risk and could take a long time.

So it seems like you have a choice to make; do things the way you’ve always done them assuming this is how everybody goes about looking for work or, open yourself up to getting help and direction from someone who knows a better way. That ‘better way’ by the way, is likely going to involve some effort on your part in two ways. One, you have to pause long enough to be open to learning the new way and two you have to be willing to give it a shot and carry out what you learn.

Keep something in mind will you? When you’re learning something new you will likely feel the urge to just get going and apply, apply, apply! But throwing your résumé around everywhere hasn’t worked to this point has it? Pausing to learn, being taught something new isn’t  everybody’s idea of a good time. You might be the kind of person that finds sitting down and being taught how to go about looking for work in 2017 is really pushing your limits. Do it anyhow. Seriously; you want a different result don’t you? Sure you do. This is the price you pay for success.

Look you deserve a decent job. You probably aren’t going to end up running some major corporation or discovering the cure for Cancer. That you want to improve your lot in Life however, do something you find personally meaningful and make a future that’s better than the present is commendable. And if I may add, you’re worth it; we all are.

You should seriously think then about reaching out for help. Where to start though? Check in with just about any Social Services organization in your local community. If you’re not in the right place, a few phone calls will likely get you pointed in the right direction. Best news is that the help you need is likely free. Sit down with open ears and a good attitude and do something you haven’t done yet; give yourself over to their expertise. If it works, great. If the chemistry doesn’t work, try someone else.

When you decide to improve things and then act, you’re already becoming the successful person you envision.

 

 

My Job Is A Privilige


I am an Employment Counsellor employed with a large municipal organization in the Greater Toronto area of Canada. While I provide help and support to people on people from all walks of life around the globe on my own time; through this employer all those I assist working with the Municipality are exclusively on social assistance.

Now I have to tell you that I consider myself to be an upbeat, positive individual and I do my very best to work with enthusiasm front and center at all times. Some of my personal friends and acquaintances wonder that the job must by its nature be depressing at times, constantly working with this population. I tell them they couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is a true privilege I find myself in to be in this position; to be looked to for support and guidance regarding looking for employment. However, what makes this particular job unique and what new employees soon learn upon taking the job, is that dealing with unemployment is only a fraction of what the work entails.

One of the things I truly love and have come to value highly are the back stories that each individual shares with me when I work alongside them. Now in some organizations the scheduling of appointments is so tight that all an Employment Counsellor can really do is focus on building a resume and any talk outside of past work histories is severely limited. Success is measured by how many people you saw in a day, a week and a month. It might look good on a stats sheet, but these are real people with fascinating backgrounds; backgrounds that are currently impacting on their ability to get and keep employment.

I am so grateful that I came to work in this capacity later rather than earlier in life. By the time I landed in my current role, I’d already worked in Retail, Recreation, Social Services and the Non-Profit sector. I’d been an Executive Director, on the front line and in positions of authority. I been promoted, let go, resigned and worked in both jobs and careers over my prior work history. All of these gave me the gifts of diverse perspective, empathy, understanding, appreciation and resiliency.

Where I am now is indeed a privilege and I’ve found a way to draw constantly on my own past experiences for the benefit of others who hope to move forward. Some people say you should never look back if you want to move forward, but I know that it’s only when you look back that you see others who could use the hand you extend as help moving forward too. Now I’ll never be financially rich in the role I’ve taken but I didn’t set out in life to accumulate the biggest bank account balance I could in the first place.  I am enriched on a regular basis and thankful to be where I am. With respect to finances though, I must say I’m not wanting.

It’s truly an honour and a rare privilege when other people come into your life and trust in you enough to open up and share some of themselves. I have found that the level to which they confide in me requires a corresponding amount of empathy, honest concern and interest in them; not as a client but as a person; a fellow human being. Often the stories I hear are dark, fraught with pain, abuse, loss, trust broken and betrayal. These are the real experiences of real people and therefore their realities however. Maybe these people have never had someone in a position of authority actually care to listen to them with only the best of intentions in mind; a person who isn’t out to take what they share and manipulate it for personal gain. Who knows?

I tell you this however; these are remarkable people who have resiliency of their own. As fragile as they might be in some respects, they are also people of incredible fortitude and determination in others. They are good and decent people deserving of chances; be they second, third or fourth ones. They are skilled, qualified and if given a chance to demonstrate their value with the right employer will prove themselves to be among an organizations finest.

And they’re up against it aren’t they? It’s not just a lack of employment they’re working to change. In addition to finding a job, they often have to overcome abusive, traumatic relationships with controlling partners and ex-partners. Their housing is often substandard, their reliance on food banks well documented, their abilities to live within the constraints of a fixed poverty income tried and tested. Along with all of this they must overcome a stigma of being a social assistance recipient.

Would you be surprised to hear that many are highly educated? You’d be surprised to learn a lot of things as am I. How I learn is really by putting myself in position to listen without judgement, exercise some patience and empathize; create the opportunity for them to take or pass up to share to the level of their individual comfort. This helps me often get to real barriers of course that I see in the way of moving forward with employment, but I feel it really helps them as a person first.

This may not be your dream job but I’m grateful it’s mine.

 

 

 

 

Poverty And Parenthood


Many of the people I assist looking for employment have children and of those who do, almost all tell me how much those children mean to them. Most of the time they say, “My kids are everything” or “My kids are number one.”

What’s at the heart of why they are telling me this when we are discussing employment has everything to do with their prioritizing skills. What they are inferring is that factors such as work location, hours, pay and benefits will often outweigh other factors like job satisfaction, chances for advancement, even what the job actually involves in some cases. They are also saying, “Just like you, I’ve got my priorities in the right order”, because make no mistake, it’s important for them to align themselves with those they respect and who they see as able to help them. They know we are different in so many ways, but here we can be equals.

They genuinely want their children to have a successful life; which really means a better life with better opportunities that they themselves have had in the past and continue to have moving forward. That’s a pretty understandable hope. Whether it’s getting out of poverty, then moving beyond the ranks of the working poor or having better quality personal relationships, they generally want their kids to be better off in life.

Now even if you’ve never been in poverty yourself, you can I trust empathize with the parent(s) who have very little if anything in the way of surplus income; especially for those in receipt of government social assistance. By the time a person covers their rent and buys food there isn’t much left over. So you might assume the obvious thing to do would be put your child in care and get a job so they have more money to improve their children’s lives. That as it turns out isn’t how they always see it. Your forgiven and perhaps guilty of looking at this from a middle class perspective and assuming because that would be your plan if you were in that situation that it’s therefore logical that it should be their plan too.

Take some of their common realities into consideration. Not true for all of course, but there are some observable behaviours which can be explained completely by circumstances in which many find themselves. For starters, poverty is often generational. Those in receipt of social assistance may have been raised in families where poverty was the norm; their parents lacked financial literacy, discipline was harsh, parenting skills in short supply, education was undervalued and ambition was viewed as showing up your elders.

Now this isn’t the reality for everyone on social assistance but there are many who if reading this would say I was accurately describing their own histories. Now in the present day, this person who is a product of their upbringing lacks the benefits that come with good supportive parenting, encouragement in school. There’s no, “you can be anything you want to be” or, “follow your dreams” mantra giving them every hope of success in life.

So what happens? The reality for many is that despite their best intentions, those early years of growth and personal development have stunted their chances. Food might not have been the healthiest or available as often. There were limited opportunities to visit museums, art galleries, experience fine dining and theatrical productions. Socializing and vocabularies were limited and as a result they saw themselves as different. Some friends weren’t  allowed to visit where they lived, their clothes were hand-me-downs and never on the cusp of cool. In short, for reasons beyond their personal control, they were impoverished in ways that went far beyond money alone.

Okay so now as an adult, they have the best of intentions. Like you and I no matter where we are in life, they only know what they’ve experienced to date and hence despite their very best of intentions, may repeat many bad decisions; well, decisions you and I might look at objectively and consider bad decisions. No wonder than we might scoff and say, “Well if they’d only have some common sense” or “Well if they’d only do what I’d do”. But how can they make good decisions without the benefit of the tools and awareness that’s required to base those good decisions on?

So it comes as no surprise for example when they do find themselves with some additional funds that they quickly spend the money on their children seeking some measure of immediate gratification. Maybe it’s off to a fast-food restaurant which brings them and their children immediate if short-term happiness; a chance to do something beyond the norm and special.

You and I might have hoped they’d save that money and by clothes for job interviews, a bus pass to get around and job search, or maybe just save it for the child’s future education. That’s middle class thinking again.

Children are their number one priorities and their hearts are in the right place. Their intentions are understandable and should be applauded. What’s lacking for many is information, supportive learning, respectful role models, helping hands and non-judgemental interventions which meet them wherever they are in terms of their capacity to learn and their willingness to do so.

In many respects we are all not so different. Maybe something to think about today.

 

Think You Can’t Help The Poor? Yes You Can


Let’s face facts okay? Some of us are socially conscious and empathetic to the plight of those in need and others (I’m hoping a small percentage) wish the poor would just disappear completely from view.

One of the things I’ve come to understand and realize is that as we age, Life has a way of changing the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and we get multiple opportunities to change our outlook. Eventually, many people shift their opinions away from their previous held viewpoints, and adopt new ways of thinking; it’s called growing and maturing. Not everyone changes their attitude or outlook of course, but I can bet that most people as they grow, think differently on many subjects as they spend more time on the planet and interact with people on it.

So, the poor. Well, they’re not invisible; you can spot them on the streets in cities, you can see them at food banks, cooling centres on days when there are heat alerts. You can see them hanging around shelters, rooming houses, lining up for jobs outside temporary agencies, in discount stores, cheque-cashing outlets, and sometimes outside coffee shops. Look for the soup kitchens and you’ll find them there, the clothing giveaways and of course the social assistance buildings in communities all over. You might even note the odd person standing at a set of lights with a coffee cup in their hand asking for a handout of whatever you can afford.

Well like I said, some of us are socially conscious, or at least empathetic. One thing you can do that would be appreciated by many is to think about the clothes you own that you’re never going to get back into. Whether too big or too small, that clothing is only taking up space in your closet. I call these, ‘someday clothes’. Someday you might fit into them again so they hang around – literally and figuratively. Do yourself and the less fortunate a favour and bundle these up and donate them to a second-hand clothing store, a charitable organization or give them to the next organization who phones you at home and asks if you have clothing to donate – like the Diabetes Association. You’ll feel good and do good at the same time.

Another thing you can do that doesn’t involve making a donation of any kind is think about the words you use in general conversations about those marginalized folks living in poverty. Be mindful of putting them down, nodding your head when a buddy makes some wisecrack about the bum blocking the sidewalk or who says to someone panhandling, “Just get a job!” Maybe you can start a conversation just by saying in return, “Hey man give the guy a break. Not cool.” Sometimes just a short comment will be enough to get someone else thinking about their own words.

Now of course you can make a donation – or donations. It needn’t be big to make a difference. In fact, you can start small. See someone on the sidewalk either sleeping or living rough? Walk up and put down a bottle of water or a piece of fruit. You don’t even have to stop and talk or say anything. Even if you don’t get a thanks, that gesture will be appreciated more than not. And if you’re an animal lover and the person has a dog with them, some dry dog food could be more appreciated by the person than food for themselves.

So all my columns and blogs focus on job searching, getting ahead and tips for getting and keeping work. Why a blog about the poor? Good question. Poor people are often people who have either been born into poverty and through no fault of their own didn’t benefit from good parenting, and weren’t supported in their schoolwork; their parents beliefs about education and what is important in life passed on through them as children. Poor people can also be those who have had circumstances in life happen to them which were beyond their control and they haven’t got the skills to overcome those barriers.

Either way you look at things, poor people are – well – people first and foremost; they just don’t have the financials resources to support themselves. Sure, I’d go so far as to say the decisions we make also impact our futures; and some people do make repeated questionable decisions and fail to learn from the consequences of those choices.

There are many however who just need a small break. Some kindness that comes unexpected can re-inspire a distrustful soul, or provide some measure of hope to a disgruntled job seeker. Pass on some clothing, makeup, the donation of your haircutting skills – even a smile instead of a scowl; it’s all in the little things we can do that can make a difference between giving up on looking for work or being encouraged enough to stick at it or start again.

A special word for employers too; think beyond your bottom line. No seriously. If you set out to use and abuse poor folks who don’t know their rights, you may get by paying minimum wage to people and regularly firing them just before the pass probation and starting all over again. Please remember you’re dealing with real people who often do their best just to learn simple routines having not had structure employers look for in their recent past.

Any kindness you can do makes us all better.