I served during 2004 and 2005 as a Mormon Ward Relief Society President in an area known as a heavy welfare area. We served not only those temporarily in bad situations due to health or job loss, but because of where we were located, we served the disabled and the chronically poor, those in extreme poverty. We also served many non-members or people who had completely fallen away from the church but came to seek help when their situation became desparate.

Self-sufficiency

It was quickly apparent, to both myself and my bishop, that the typical church welfare response was not near enough. While the thinking to help people become self-sufficient is appropriate for many, there are some who will never be able to escape poverty.

I need to tell you a story about this. I am not a social worker — I am an Information Technology project manager. But it seems that throughout my entire life, the Lord has been training me on how to help the truly, desperately needy.

Not in this ward, but 10 years earlier in another ward, I became friends with a new convert named Janna who was disabled. She had two masters’ degrees and was a nurse, but had injured her neck in a bad car accident. She had no family to speak of and friends had all drifted away. Over time, she had burned through her savings and dropped private disability and insurance programs and was living on $540 per month disability income. She did not have a rent-subsidized apartment or food stamps — I don’t know if she was not eligible or simply didn’t know about those programs. Her extra income went to medical co-pays and handi-ride transportation. Her food came entirely from food banks and was often expired.

She joined our church quite sincerely, believing in the doctrines she had been taught. She didn’t know about the welfare assistance and for many months, didn’t even ask about it. It was me who brought it up when I got into her refrigerator one day and saw that it was bare.

I put her in touch with the bishop and Relief Society President. We lived in a very affluent ward where many had never even done a food order. Well-meaning church helpers kept trying to set limits on aid they could give, hoping to motivate her to become self-sufficient, perhaps thinking she could pick up a part-time job.

Janna died about a year and half after she was baptized. She was never going to get well. She was never going to be able to work to pick up extra income. She was never even going to be able to keep her apartment clean.

Efforts to help her achieve a traditional self-sufficiency were misguided and emotionally hurtful. We could have done a much better job with her.

Self-sufficient within the welfare system

It is for people like Janna that our training and attitudes towards helping needs to expand. In helping people become self-sufficient, sometimes we need to help them become self-sufficient in working through the welfare system.

Before you go much further, you really need to read my page on Poverty and the Church. It will blow your mind and revolutionize your welfare response for those in generational or long-term poverty.

Teach people how to find private and government aid programs

What you will find on these pages are ideas and resources for helping people help themselves WITHIN a welfare context. Most often, you are helping them find prescription assistance or healthcare programs. Sometimes you are helping single moms find free educational and job-training programs. And many times, their needs are so long-term, you are helping them find programs that are often initially funded by the church, such as food, rent, and utility assistance.

Please feel free to send me your questions via the comments sections and I will try to help you know where to look to find the help you are seeking.

I am going to list the areas that I will be speaking to. If you don’t see a link, it’s because I’m still working on the page. There’s a lot to cover!

Categories

First Places to Begin to Find Help

Age 55+

Dental Care

Education and Job Training Programs

Eyeglasses

Felons
* Yes, you’ll need to know programs to help these folks get back to working again

Food Assistance
Yes, even though food is something the Church covers very well, for long-term food needs, food stamps may be the way to go. And don’t think it stops there. Many of our hard-working families who would not seek Church food assistance and who do not qualify for food stamps still need help providing for their families. There are many options if you know where to look.

Fund Raising

Hearing Aids

How to Google for Help

Medical Help

Mental Health

Poverty and the Church – You MUST read this!

Prayer

Prescription Assistance

Special Helps by State

Colorado

Tax Assistance — Don’t overlook the Earned Income Tax Credit. This can put money in the pocket of many brothers and sisters, even if they are not in super low-income poverty.

Transportation
* Oftentimes, people out of work need bus fare and people with medical concerns need rides to chemotherapy and other appointments.

Veterinary
* Don’t overlook people’s pets! Pets are often the reason a person in dire straits will choose to live rather than to give up.

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