'No One Decides To Be Destitute'

How One New Yorker Came To Commit the 'Crime' of Poverty

I've been waiting since February when I began my search, March when I began the forms, April when I began the long series of appointments and waiting. It's now almost the end of May and I've received absolutely nothing. I have managed to get a tiny bit of work, making $118 per week, which disqualifies me for emergency aid. How people on welfare, public assistance, or whatever we call this system survive is beyond me. Given a choice, this is not where I would be. Given a choice as a middle-aged woman, writer and artist, and wardrobe assistant, I'd choose to be working at a decent job, paying my bills with enough money left over to be able to make a thick sandwich.

But this is where I am momentarily. And most of the people on these long lines have similar stories. The minority are cheaters.

There's an attitude of indifference that permeates this system and that indifference has a source.

Tim C. Okamura

This morning, despite decades of work, I found myself in need, showed up for yet another appointment, heard my name called after an hour of waiting, signed my name on the form, then was told to go downstairs and wait for the form to be brought down (I couldn't bring it down myself). Downstairs I waited an hour and 45 minutes, then heard my name called again, signed two more forms, and was told to go to another building 25 blocks away to have another photo taken.

After the bus ride, I signed another form and delivered one. Grown men and women were holding onto these thin pieces of paper as if they were a small child's lunch pass. After waiting for an hour downstairs, a large group was taken outdoors, in a line, to another building. We were stripped of all dignity, walking through that street in a line.

Then inside we were taken upstairs, through a maze of desks and cameras, and told to wait outside in a narrow hallway. We stood there, against the wall, most of us women alone or with children, for another 45 minutes, until the names began.

I had another photograph taken and was told to go home and wait.

The woman in the photo looks tired and defeated.

Some people crumble under these circumstances. Many people crumble. And I'm wondering now if this is the plan.

May 16, 1999
Mr. Boyd
Supervisor, Section Six

Dear Mr. Boyd,

I wrote to you almost a month ago, asking why I have been denied food stamps. I received a call from my caseworker, Ms. D. Perez, and was told to come into the office on 14th St. again. I did and was then told to go to the 34th St. office and be photographed again. I did this also, on May 5.

When I had my very first visit with Ms. D. Perez, there was a great deal of discussion regarding the fact that I'm not a U.S. citizen. It was explained to me that the new ruling was that only U.S. citizens could receive food stamps. I have permanent resident status and am a Canadian citizen. I've lived and worked in New York for over 30 years. It was decided, after I brought in documentation to establish that fact, that I would be eligible.

But as you can see from the enclosed vouchers, I continue to be denied. . . . Would you please let me know if I'm doing something wrong, in order to be eligible. All I'm asking is emergency assistance with food stamps and Medicaid.


Magie Dominic

Who's Who: Magie Dominic

Bio: Dominic, Magie, writer, artist; b. Corner Brook, Nfld., Can., July 15, 1944; 1 child, Heather Rose. Diploma, Art Inst. of Pitts. Prodr/dir. Children's History Theatre, Woodstock, NY, 1978-1984; freelance wardrobe asst. Met Opera, NYC, 1986-; freelance wardrobe asst. Broadway and TV NYC, 1986-; assoc. curator Caffe Cino Exhibit, Linc. Ctr. Libr. for the Performing Arts, Astor Gallery, NYC, 1985. Editor, author: Belles Lettres/Beautiful Letters, 1995; author (anthology) Outrage, 1993. Pushing the Limits, 1996, Countering the Myths, 1996; author words to final movement of "Symphony #2— Visions of a Wounded Earth," Internat. Symphony Orch., 1996; art work in pvt. collection St. Vincent's Hosp., NYC, the Malcolm Forbes Collection; created the Gown of Stillness installation, Toronto, 1995, NYC, 1996. Recipient Langston Hughes award Clark Ctr., 1968; Children's History Theatre grantee Am. the Beautiful Fund, 1979, '80, Shaker Found., 1980, '81. Mem. League of Can. Poets

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My name is Terrence Mohr, I am 33 with a wife and 3 kids and I have a story about myself and my Family in St. Louis that would shock the average everyday square. I had to go to work at 18 because I just had a kid. But thankfully my father is a member of the St. Louis Pipe cover's Union since the sixties, Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos workers local # 1. I started with the union trades when I was 18 and have been a member since 2000. The shit I've seen growing up in North St. Louis being one of a  handful of white kids in the whole school was brutal. I sold crack and heroin and got high and drunk for 4 months instead of going to school my eighth grade year. the cops finally came looking for me and they threw me in a locked down million dollar cottage in the middle of Missouri called boys town, instead of juvenile. The only reason was because my old man knew some people. I got out went to work as a dishwasher and went back to school and at 16 I got kicked out of Lutheran North high school because I had an ounce of weed.  But thank God I sold a dime out of it because that made it a misdemeanor and I got a year probation. I got my GED 4 months later at 16 and started community college, met my Wife and had a kid 5 days before  my 18th birthday October 29, 1998. Did I forget to tell you about all the drug sales, robberies, and pure mayhem from 1996 to 1998 there was a lot. Most of my old associates are either locked up or killed or just surviving, if you can call it that, some made it but not many. What I seen as a minor would shock an Iraq/Afghanistan vet let alone an average everyday square. But none of that compares to the crazy life I've lived since I've been a tradesman. My grandfather was Jasper Palazzolo and his family is in the book "Gangs of St. Louis Men of Respect" by Daniel Waugh. Those men made the trade unions in St. Louis. Those Men knew how to operate. I have some stories to put on paper if anyone wants to hear them. Mytymohrgmail.com