Why “Get a Job” Is Not the Answer

By Whitney Fullerton, Administrative Coordinator

Let me tell y’all a little story:

There’s a little girl. Her name is Brittany. Brittany’s mother is addicted to drugs, and her father is gone. Her uncle begins molesting Brittney at the age of 3. Her mother is just glad that he’s willing to babysit Brittany so she can leave all night to do drugs. When Brittany is 7, her mother is so desperate for drugs that she begins selling her own daughter’s body to men so she can make money. Brittany starts failing in school. The teachers think “she’s just not applying herself.” They have no idea that her life is a living hell.

At the age of 13, she meets a guy who says he is 18, and she thinks he’s cute (after all, she’s desperate for love and affection because she’s never had any). He becomes her boyfriend, and he’s nothing less than Prince Charming. After a few weeks, he wants to take Brittany on a trip. She’s never left her hometown before so she’s very excited. When they get to their hotel, Brittany’s boyfriend informs her that she is going to have to have sex with men for money and that if she doesn’t do it, he will murder her family in front of her.

Fast forward… Brittany is 30 years old. She has been on the streets since she was 13. She has a problem with drugs and alcohol (they are the only things that numb her from the complex trauma). She sleeps in an abandoned house. Sometimes people come in and steal all of her belongings. Society says, “GET A JOB! Stop depending on the government!” But you see, Brittany can’t even get food stamps because she has no permanent address for the card to get mailed to. In order to get a job, she needs an ID. She doesn’t have one. In order to get an ID, she has to prove she’s homeless. She also needs to be presentable at work and not smell like rotting flesh. She has no access to a shower. She also needs nice clothes to wear to work. She gets some from a local clothes closet for the homeless, but she has no way to wash them when they get dirty. Another thing—Brittany has no transportation to get to her new job and the bus is unreliable. Oh and by the way, Brittany has never gotten psychiatric help for all of the trauma she has endured because she doesn’t qualify for healthcare. And if she did qualify, she couldn’t make it to the appointments anyway because remember… she has no transportation. So, working in fast paced jobs like fast food joints, restaurants, etc., is unbearable because of the PTSD.

Think that story is far-fetched? It happens EVERY. DAY. IN. AMERICA. IN. YOUR. TOWN. IN. EVERY. TOWN. So, *IF* Brittany were able to get a job and keep it by some miracle, are you telling me she shouldn’t earn a living wage because she “should take the initiative to better her life” or she “should work her way up in order to make more money”??? If she works 40 hours a week at a crappy job, she shouldn’t be able to afford an apartment, transportation, insurance, a phone, healthcare, food, clothing, oh and god forbid, a trip to the beach or to the movies?

Are we so sheltered in our own communities that we have no idea what reality is like for other people? Are we talking to the woman on the corner, befriending her, and listening to her story and how she ended up where she is? Or are we sitting in our suburban house with our SUV in the driveway, dinner on the stove, money in the bank, screaming, “GET A JOB!” and then— oh by the way, glad you got a job but if you want to make a living wage, you’re gonna have to climb your way up the ladder.

If you still think the story about Brittany is far-fetched and would like more information, send us an email at lisieuxcommunity.gmail.com. Educating the community is top priority. When people understand and have empathy, maybe they will donate to the countless organizations that are trying to help people like Brittany, and maybe they will support everyone having a living wage.

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