What would your life look like without Safety Net programs like SNAP and Medicare?

Without these programs I would probably be living with my mom and my husband would likely be homeless. Without food stamps we would have a very hard time surviving. Without Medicare I wouldn’t be able to see a doctor for my physical or mental health. I would be either psychotic or depressed, unable to go to the hospital. And, although I would likely be psychotic without my medication, I wouldn’t be able to afford to go to the crisis unit for help.

Do you believe there is stigma for people who use public assistance programs like SNAP and, if so, how does that impact you?

I feel some shame using food stamps – not so much for public housing, but there is still a lot of stigma using public assistance. I think this is because there are some who believe a lot of people are “taking advantage” of these programs. 

People think those on food stamps don’t work for a living or that they have more than those who do work, or that they just don’t want to work.

I can’t work because of my disability, but people don’t see that. People just think because I don’t look disabled, I can work. It’s frustrating.

The poverty level is so high nowadays and people just need assistance to get by with an extra boost. It’s not a crutch, it’s not a handout – it’s help for when you need it. Most of us don’t stay on it forever, we get the help we need and go off of it.

What would you say to the folks who believe people on public assistance are “taking advantage” of the system?

Very few people get a lot of money [from assistance] but the ones who have families get more. I spend mine on meat, milk, and sensible things. Most people spend their money on things that will last them throughout the month. For example, It’s hard to buy fruits and vegetables because they are so expensive and go bad quickly, but I always try to incorporate frozen vegetables into my meals – although it’s still hard to get by and stay healthy. 

What makes you optimistic about the future?

I think it’s getting a little better, but it seems there are more people in the welfare line and on medicaid. We should try to reduce that, but it isn’t getting much better. 

How do you think the City of Wheeling could improve the lives of people in poverty?

Places could provide more resources and more jobs by building more business rather than parking lots. 

There are many supportive people here; Catholic Charities hands out job and resource applications, they have a bulletin board for community events, and they provide food giveaways. The Soup Kitchen makes announcements about community things too; they do a lot for the community. 

I think it will take a while for things to get better. I believe we could do more to make the changes necessary to help people – I am hopeful things will change.

Melissa G.

Wheeling, WV

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