Today I sent another issue of Survival News—“the voices of low-income women”—to the printers; this is my second year as layout artist for the newspaper. At 40 broadsheets (11”x17”), the newspaper is the same size as last year. Published by Survivors, Inc., Survival News is the official newspaper of the National Welfare Rights Union and provides news, stories, advocacy information and 20 pages of Survival Tips—explanations and contact information to help in navigating the complex and crumbling web of social services and support systems—in English and Spanish, and excerpts in Vietnamese.

It’s a great group with which to volunteer and the stories and information that’s published are invaluable. Also, the group doesn’t just stop at publishing the paper; they go into DTA (Department of Transitional Assistance: welfare) offices and volunteer as public advocates for those seeking assistance. This is an excerpt from a DTA Log by Diana Moon:

I started working for Survivor’s Inc. early last 2010. I met many wonderful families and individuals. Thanks to all for sharing their experience with me. Here are a few highlights that I recall from my visits to Dudley and the Revere DTA.

I offered “Survival News” to a woman explaining a little about Survivor’s Inc and also introducing myself. She then told me her story. She worked for many years and had good jobs and was self-sufficient. Last year she became ill with heart disease and was hospitalized. Unable to work she lost her apartment and moved to her daughter’s apartment. She is on a wait-list for housing. She is in today because her disability benefits were terminated because she has a burial insurance policy (which is counted as an asset.) At first she thought surely this must be a mistake; I agreed with her that a burial policy which can only be used at the time of her death should not be counted as an asset (WT**.) Wow… how perplexing! Then she became emotional because after all the years she has worked and all she’s been through it’s really painful to be spoken to by a DTA worker as if she has done something wrong; as if needing financial help or any other assistance or getting sick means a failure on her part. I felt upset too for this very dignified woman to have someone speak so carelessly to her. We must keep trying to be respectful to each other. We reviewed the Survivor Tip section and I encouraged her to contact Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS). She knew of GBLS and said she would contact them although she informed me she learned there is a Regulation that burial policies count as assets. I hope this regulation will be changed! She thanked me for the paper and after we talked she said she felt a little better and less alone.

I talked with another woman about the Survival Tips section and we had a discussion of private rights and personal space and then what can happen to privacy when you live in public housing. For example, there is talk of making smoking illegal in public housing (more issues to debate). She told me she came in to apply for food stamps. She was laid off her job and then took a position for less income at a CVS. The food stamps are a big help she said. I’ve heard similar stories from other women who either work full time for minimum wage or have a part-time position and come to apply for or renew their food stamps. Food stamps are a great benefit and I feel thankful this is available for families! I think, too, about how many live vulnerably just one paycheck away from the threat of losing the security of their home. Another woman told me, “If I lose my job then I’ll be looking for shelter. I worry each month I won’t be able to make full rent and then I’ll be evicted.” I think about how we hear talk about strengthening families, about empowering families; well, then affordable, safe housing is a good place to start!

The artwork above was contributed by coworker Billy Brown. And I’m still trying to convince them to work on their website.