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Homeless and Poor Giving Up Food Stamps;Economic Security Calls - KOAM TV 7

Homeless and Poor Giving Up Food Stamps;Economic Security Calls Practice, Dangerous

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 A controversial concept is getting a foothold in Joplin. The homeless and poor giving up food stamps.

        More than forty-five million Americans are receiving food stamps, but a local shelter founder encourages those his mission serves to get off government assistance.

 The push for self-reliance is drawing criticism though from a local support agency.

Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission gives away bags of food to the hungry and shelter to the homeless. So you might be surprised to learn there’s a wall where some are posting their EBT cards and giving up food stamps.

Jocelyn Brissons says, "I feel good about myself. That was a big deal. It was like when I quit using meth. Being a meth addict for 38 years, it was all I knew.   When I quit doing that, got my first year clean, it was like wow! I can do this.  My first year off food stamps, it was like wow! I can survive."

John Losa gave up his and says, "I had a thousand dollars on it when I gave it up. That’s crazy, huh."

Jocelyn and John's are among eleven cards on what ministry director James Whitford has named the Wall of American Heroes.

Losa says, "I wasn't using them in the right way. I was selling them and doing. I wasn't using ‘em. And when I got a job, I feel better about myself working and paying for myself, then having somebody else pay for my stuff, you know."

Jocelyn has been clean seven years, went to Missouri Southern and is now a drug and alcohol counselor and assistant shelter manager at Watered Gardens.

Jocelyn says, "I never went hungry. I always had food, you know. So, I’m good. I don't miss it. I don't miss it."

Whitford believes people should turn to charities before the government for help.

Whitford says, "Four percent of Missourian’s on foods stamps are homeless. The bill for that is so large, if  just the homeless were  fed at missions, at food  pantries  and shelters in our state, instead of just being on food stamps,  the state  would save fifty-seven million dollars in the first year."

Economic security officials say it's a dangerous proposition. They say eighty percent of those on food stamps are the elderly, disabled, children and the working poor.

The CEO of Economic Security Corporation of Southwest Missouri John Joines says, "Eighteen percent are in poverty. One fifth of people in poverty. That’s pretty tough. We have more to do than feed them. We need to teach them how to feed themselves and ensure we're successful at that. We do that by giving them training and budgeting."

Jocelyn and John say they ate and learned budgeting at Watered Gardens. Others also eat at Salvation Army and other food kitchens..

John Lundy, once struggling but now in college says, "Why spend government money, two hundred dollars a month in food stamps, when I don't need to?."

He and others think food stamps are necessary for some.  But Jocelyn understands becoming dependent on them.

 She says, "I’d been on food stamps my whole entire life. My mom had food stamps. I was raised on food stamps. I raised my son on food stamps. It was just a way of life."

Economic security argues that's not the norm and food stamps are an important safety net. .

Robin Smith, the assistant director of community development with economic security says, "They need to eat. It's a human need. They’re on food stamps for six months or so on average. You have to reapply but a lot, most folks,  when they're back on their feet and moving again it’s not terribly long because when you start earning some income, its starts going down and  then eventually cuts off."

Whitford says the cut off can be a cliff of disincentive, when families earn less than they  once got in food stamps. 

And Jocelyn says. "Change is always hard and it’s awkward. If nothing changes, nothing changes. You’’re stuck in that lifestyle.  Take a leap forward in faith. It really boosted my self-esteem because I had none."

Jocelyn is actually now seeking a masters degree in criminal justice.

 Those who gave up their EBT cards do not advocate eliminating food stamps altogether.

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