Monday, October 14, 2013

Poverty Boot Camp for Congress Members

Instead of a sweeping removal of all Congressmen and Congresswomen this next election (or the ones whose actions you find reprehensible), I propose a possible aid, hopefully a solution, to this crisis.

Every serving member of Congress will be required to attend a two-week Poverty Boot Camp. They will be allowed to bring one standard carry-on-sized suitcase and the clothes on their backs. No apartment to go home to, no family to take them in, no credit or debit cards.  Have beloved pets at home?  Sorry, they go the shelter.  They may or may not be there when you get home...if you do.

You will be forced to spend your most terrifying first days of homelessness trying to navigate help resources with the aid of fellow homeless people, whose information may or may not be accurate. You will be advised to file for food stamps...I hope you remembered to pack your pertinent legal documents to do that! You're probably not eligible for Medicaid unless you have children. Do you have a computer? Great! Then your application for government aid should only involve confusion, long waits, and computer crashes, rather than having to wait in line ,outside in the cold, to get benefits.

If you have a mental illness, there are agencies to help you, such as Santa Fe's The Life Link (438-0010), with case management, therapy, and other services. But be prepared to wait, and find some place to hole up on cold nights -- camp, couch surf, find a cheap motel, or curl up behind a defunct warehouse. If you bum a cigarette or a shot of vodka from a homeless buddy to ease the pain of having absolutely no control over your circumstances, be prepared to be hated, sneered at, and lectured by strangers.

Applying for disability benefits due to your clearly obvious debilitating physical or mental illness is a great idea...but you may have to wait a couple years and in the meantime, rely on unreliable county indigent funds or Healthcare for the Homeless, an angelic and heroic organization, which is unfortunately not available everywhere homeless people are found.

Congresspersons, you are free to attempt to form groups and committees to solve your plight, but you might find difficulty synchronizing the schedules of those spending their time desperately seeking social services, or those who are unreachable because they don't have cell phones or addresses.

Clothing banks are in place.  Senators and Representatives, I hope you aren't an unusual size.  You'll get used to casual -- VERY casual -- wear. Food is served at many locations around town. Don't have a car anymore, and don't have a bus pass? Well, you'll have to hoof it until your shoes wear out.

When the remains of your day of hustling settle into quiet contemplation, and if you can possible quiet your mind of intrusive thoughts of how you are going to eat, let alone how you might redeem yourself to your friends and family, perhaps you will realize how lucky you are, how badly your constituents are suffering (yes, homeless people vote), and that there is something you can do to stop the nonsense, usually by humbling yourself, gracefully admitting defeat, setting your efforts to the next election or vote, and resolving to do better for the Americans who trusted you.

Only then will you be released from this boot camp and allowed to once again attempt to start the engines again on this federal government and attempt -- no, not attempt -- suffer and sweat to complete, today, a bipartisan resolution.

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