By Marianne Lincoln
When I was young, teachers told the story of the little match girl. It is about a homeless orphan who sold matches to sustain herself. The story does not end well as she uses up her matches to keep warm on a cold night and in the end, freezes to death.
Our state, Washington, has one of the highest costs of living in the country. In an articles quoting statistics from the Low Income Housing Coalition, Madeleine Thomas tells the sad story of how out of reach housing is in many parts of America. 30% of American’s workers earn a near minimum wage salary she quotes from the Pew Research Center.
In Pierce County, Washington, companies keep workers wages and benefits down by keeping hours under 30 and paying near minimum wage. The result is large numbers of working poor. People with jobs that qualify for public assistance. I, too, have been seeking work and see this daily all over the want ads and in sad stories from friends and acquaintances. Companies that pay high salaries to their executives are paying wages to their staff that are below the poverty level. It’s not just the often accused Walmart that does this. Is this subsidizing these successful businesses? Taxpayers are helping them pay their low-level staff. Yes, this is one kind of corporate welfare.
But this is about those people who cannot afford rent. These are the people whose wages are too low, they may have judgments, they may suffer from medical problems. They likely have bills in the wake of financial distress or maybe a large child support payment hanging over their heads. Whatever the cause, they are now homeless. Many do not end up the because of substance abuse. They end up there because of wage and benefit abuse and job losses. Not all are in homeless camps. A great percentage are not on drugs or alcohol. Some are in cars, some in relatives houses or friends couches. Many ARE looking for work. I know from personal experience.
There are a few organizations I want to list. These are non-profits (some working with churches) that are trying to help with the problem. This is not to understate the need for businesses to step up, because their wages, hours, benefits and hiring/firing policies are very much at the center of this problem. (And legislators at all levels need to step up and admit this failing.) If you feel charitable, here are places where you can help.