For Philly's vulnerable, the government shutdown trickles down to tragedy - Generocity Philly

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Jan. 18, 2019 11:01 am

For Philly’s vulnerable, the government shutdown trickles down to tragedy

"Wherever we fall on the political spectrum, we all must agree that punishing the poor is not the way to make America great again," writes Pathways to Housing PA head Christine Simiriglia.

Pathways to Housing PA participant Mary Ann.

(Photo by Sarah Bones Photography, courtesy of Pathways to Housing PA)

This is a guest post by Pathways to Housing PA President and CEO Christine Simiriglia.
I worry about 800,000 government workers who have had their livelihoods stolen and clutch their chests as they lie awake in bed at night trying to figure out how to pay the rent, the gas bill, for groceries and for medication.

This is the direct and most understood effect of holding the American people hostage with this shutdown, but it is far from the only terrible impact.

Philadelphia has a nearly 26 percent poverty rate, one of the highest in the nation. Of that 26 percent, nearly half (12.2 percent) are living in deep poverty with incomes below 50 percent of the federal poverty limit. Even before the shutdown, these people were struggling to make it day by day.

And the effect on my organization, Pathways to Housing PA, and other nonprofits fighting homelessness, cannot be ignored. Enterprise Community Partners President Laurel Blatchford put it well in this coordinated National Low Income Housing Coalition letter:

“Each day of the shutdown makes it harder and harder for the nearly 10 million people who live in HUD-assisted housing — low-income families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly — to avoid eviction, keep their heat turned on, and access health care and supportive services. Congress and the Administration must find a way to restore funding for programs critical to the livelihoods of Americans across the country.”

Pathways has two HUD renewal contracts affecting 130 apartment units that were due to be signed this month. Beginning Feb. 1, we will need to find almost $100,000 each month that the government shutdown continues to ensure that these marginalized, formerly homeless people remain in their homes.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) wasn’t reauthorized before the shutdown, so it has expired. Many domestic violence programs receive funding from Office of Violence Against Women under VAWA. That office is not processing payment requests. As the shutdown persists, providers will find it challenging to continue offering domestic violence crisis services and we risk the safety of women and children. We worry for our partner agencies like Women Against Abuse and their ability to maintain lifesaving services in the coming months.

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People who rely on SNAP benefits (food stamps) received an early disbursement to carry them through February, but what happens on March 1? Even with SNAP benefits, far too many people are hungry in America and the organizations fighting hunger and food scarcity are stretched to the limits. Is starving America’s children part of our new political reality?

I’ve read about hundreds of heart-wrenching but avoidable tragedies happening right now because of this political folly. People are suffering and the suffering is deep, widespread and real. Wherever we fall on the political spectrum, we all must agree that punishing the poor is not the way to make America great again.

Remember, the greatness of a nation is judged by how it treats its weakest member.

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