Texas: State Of Tragedy

If this does not count as completely avoidable tragedy, I don’t know what does. Washington Post:

SAN ANTONIO — A Texas woman who for months was unable to qualify for food stamps pulled a gun in a state welfare office and staged a seven-hour standoff with police that ended with her shooting her two children before killing herself, officials said Tuesday.

The children, a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, remained in critical condition Tuesday. …

[Texas Dept. of HHS spokesperson] Goodman didn’t know what Grimmer specifically failed to provide. In addition to completing an 18-page application, families seeking state benefits also must provide documents proving their information, such as proof of employment and residency.

“We were still waiting, and if we had that, I don’t know if she would still qualify or not,” Goodman said.

Ms. Grimmer and her two children were taken into a room by a caseworker. Grimmer revealed a gun and the standoff began. I’ll spare you the details of the shooting, only the conclusion:

… Inside, they found Grimmer’s body and her two wounded children.

The children were “very critical” and unconscious when taken from the scene, [Laredo PD Officer] Baeza said.

It is notoriously difficult to apply for and obtain any social service from the State of Texas. The caseworkers are not to blame here: a solidly Republican legislature and governor for decades, coupled with re-re-redistricting designed to maintain that status in perpetuity, assures that obtaining state aid or state-moderated federal aid in Texas is as arduous as anywhere in the United States.

Yes, this woman was tragically mentally unstable. Who knows if she would or would not have qualified for food stamps… in Texas, an answer of “no” would be a good bet. But either way, a woman is dead and two children hang by a thread, mostly because of how poverty is regarded by TPTB in Texas. My heart aches.

AFTERTHOUGHT: This evening, in the parking lot of the grocery store which is my early voting location, a woman about 35 years old or so asked me for money so she could put up her two sons, ages 2 and 6, at a motel tonight. I gave her $20, based on what I had in my pocket and what I expected she could gather in that parking lot, balanced by the regrettably real possibility that she would use the money to get high tonight instead of for lodging or food for her children. But I could not forget the expression on the face of my late father decades ago, when he explained to me about such donations: he said yes, the person may just be handing you a line… but what if they’re genuinely hungry, or really are facing a freezing night out in the weather? Many times I saw my Dad reach for a couple of dollars (a lot of money in those days) to give to someone whose best hope otherwise was to be arrested for vagrancy. We really, really need to accommodate the victims of misfortune in this society. Too often, instead, we merely compound their misfortune. “The rich get rich and the poor get poorer,” or else die sleeping on the sidewalk in the freezing rain. Will we ever, as a society, decide “enough is enough”?

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  • Bryan  On Tuesday December 6, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    The demeaning procedure in Florida is no better, especially with the new requirement for paying for a drug test before applying for help.

    If the banks had to jump through the same hoops to get hundreds of billions of dollars in bail outs that people have to go through to get food stamps, they might be a bit more conservative in their bets.

    • Steve  On Tuesday December 6, 2011 at 11:46 pm

      Bryan, as the temperature declines toward a light freeze (something I did not know when I was in that parking lot), I find myself wishing I’d given the woman what she actually asked for, so I could be sure she had a place. Fiesta is a medium-sized chain of huge stores; she probably did all right in that parking lot. But the whole situation is fucked. Just how much should people be required to beg and plead as “punishment” for being poor?

      I used to do some volunteer work for the local Interfaith Hunger Coalition (since renamed and merged with the much bigger Houston Food Bank). I’d resume my work for them, but it’s a little hard for me to lift a box of 24 cans of food these days, even wearing my big boot. Aging is hard enough even for those of us who are not broke and hungry!

  • karmanot  On Wednesday December 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    It just wants to make me weep. This madness will escalate I’m sure.

    • Steve  On Wednesday December 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      karmanot, the madness is pervasive even now. This whole phenomenon of nobody-gives-a-damn self-centeredness seems to me to have come into being almost fully formed in the reign of Saint Reagan and to have ravaged more Americans with each passing decade. Will we… all of us, each of us… make it through this decade? Damned if I know!

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