Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On Charity

I stopped by Jefferson County Community Ministries this morning to drop off some money following the week-end's blogshoot.

$600 collected at the shoot will go to help those in need in Jefferson County, so thanks to each and every one of you who came out.

And while I was there talking to Bob Shefner, the Executive Director, Bob filled me in on some of the changes that they've made this year in the way that they operate. You see, JCCM was getting swamped with people showing up for food, clothing, money, etc., and some of these people had been coming in regularly for a long time, including many apparently able-bodied younger adults. It was clear to the Board of Directors that for every person there who was truly in need, there were others coming in just because it was convenient. Why buy groceries when you can just walk in here and claim poverty, then walk out with a couple of boxes worth for free? And I'll admit that I found it a bit irritating more than once over the years to bring stuff in there for those in need only to see young and reasonably fit adults carting it out and loading it into a car or SUV. But it's not my place to judge. I had to trust that the administrators here were taking steps to see that the aid went to those who really needed it. And it turns out that they are, and with demonstrated results. They have a new operating model this year, best summed up on their website:
For years, we have devoted our attention and resources to short-term emergency assistance. Currently, we are moving towards activities that will help clients find more permanent solutions.

In order to accomplish this movement to greater self-sufficiency, we are doing the following:

--Spending more time with each client during the interview process
--Requiring proof of such things as income and family size and circumstances
--Requiring clients to take advantage of an opportunity to develop additional life skills.

A variety of life skill opportunities are in place to help with the move beyond emergency to solution in the areas of budget and financial planning, food budgeting and planning, problem solving, time management, and per-employment activities. More are being planned.

Basically, what they're doing now is making their clients show actual need, and thern requiring them to participate in some sort of life skills training designed to make them more employable and better stewards of their resources. And you know what they've seen after a year of this?

A sixty percent drop in demand for the free stuff.

That's right. When those asking for assistance suddenly has to prove the need and work on some developmental skills intened to improve their situation, over half of those asking suddenly decided that they didn't need the aid any more.

Those who kept coming got aid, and in addition, they're getting help from volunteers who are teaching them how to get their lives back on track. So it's a win-win for everyone.

This is the kind of responsible stewardship that defines a good charity. This is how charities used to run back when they were all administered privately or by local community groups, but then Big Government stepped in (FDR, LBJ, Clinton, Obama) and decided to handle it all themselves. Medicare, Food stamps, Section 8 housing, subsidized phones and utilities...the list goes on and on. And those of us watching this government largess over the years have seen two things happen: It grows in size and scope every year because it's budget is determined by how many recipients that it can enroll, regardless of any need. We've also seen epic fraud as recipients game the system just to score free stuff. And that's often tolerated because it goes right back to item #1: More payments to more recipients equals a greater budget next year and more staff get hired. Means-testing and fraud detection whould actually cut down on expenditures--and budgets and staffing requirements--so they are typically under-utilized or not utilized at all. This is the opposite of how it is supposed to work but it's business as usual for a government program.

Private charities like JCCM tend to be much more responsible with the money and resources that they distribute, and as a result, a lot more of it gets to where it's supposed to be and helps those who really need as opposed to those who merely want. And this is why I've long advocated that we get the federsal government right back out of the public assistance business and let that community function return to those who can run it best: local charities run by non-profits or area churches, perhaps assisted by block grants from the states in cases where the need is extreme. But that would just take the control of all of that money away from the federal bureaucrats, and it would keep a certain political party from using that money to create long-term dependence which is then leveraged for votes.

As a conservative and as a Christian, I'll continue to oppose federal handling of welfare and public assistance, but I'll also continue to support private charities, particularly those that strive to put people back on their feet and make them productive again. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats forever and doesn't need the Democrats to hand him a burger that they've billed everyone else for.


  1. Hey Murphy;

    We on a regular basis would donate stuff to the food pantry from our scouting activities...I would see people with the latest electronic devices, nicer cars than I have and they would be in there trying to get "free Food" and they frequently sneer at the offerings we have. Really.".How much does those hair extension and nails cost?" The sheer entitlement attitude pisses me off....where is the pride?......We do help people..and that is good...but the sheer amount of "gamers" I see does leave a bad taste in my mouth.

  2. Amen brother!

    I once had a spirited discussion with a liberal who was against drug testing of welfare recipients. His point was that the children would suffer. My point was that the children were already suffering and the funds were going to support them mom's drug habit, not helping the kids. The first step to helping the kids was to acknowledge the root of the problem, the mom's substance abuse, and moving forward from there.

    The liberal admitted that he had never considered the possibility that the mom might be short-stopping some or all of the resources.

  3. if you go to 'gorges grouse' blog of a few days ago, there is a column about the new way of life.
    turns out it is perfectly legal to 'game' the system, and it is much more profitable than good citizenship.
    i do object to drug testing everyone receiving food stamps. my daughter has a nasty chronic parasitic disease and receives food stamps.
    thanks to God, she also finally received medicaid.
    food stamps do help those who need them.
    it is wrong to assume all recipients are cheating.
    those who cheat sell the ebt cards to certain merchants at a discount.
    it should be easy enough to trace the cheaters.
    i've been told the cheaters use the $$$ for drugs and cigarettes.
    if this information is common knowledge among the citizenry the state inspectors should easily find it and act upon it.
    if the government has the will to do so.

  4. Glad to hear they've stepped up and are actually requiring people to show need. That means the good WILL actually go to the needy... Thanks again for hosting the shoot!

  5. I agree. I can remember the time the church's handled helping the needy then along came LBJ.

  6. Good news and thanks for hosting the shoot!