Tag Archives: Resources

5 Things Poor People Need That No Program in the USA Offers Assistance For

30 Nov
Photo Courtesy of openDemocracy

Most people reading might not know that, for the past year, I’ve been unemployed. My former job required me to drive. Since my car accident in February, it has been difficult to find work. My insurance didn’t fully cover the cost of another car (that figures), and my credit would stop me from getting anything. Out where I live, there aren’t too many car lots that don’t run a credit check.

On top of that, I have a severe disability that makes it hard for me to be hired for just any job. I’m also a 5″ petite femme-looking person, and that holds me back from being hired for the physically laborious jobs that are usually reserved for men by the employers.

Like many people in my situation, the Pandemic already dried up a lot of my savings last year when hours were reduced. The car accident was horribly timed, just as I was trying to restore my savings.

Unlike many people in my situation, I don’t have family members and friends I can rely on for help.

The first thing I did was I sought help from my State in my Country, the USA. Sure, there are Food Stamps or Food Assistance Programs, programs to help keep the water, gas, and electric on, and even ways to get your rent paid. But I realized how inaccessible even those resources are when you’re lacking programs to help in other ways. There are other, possibly even more, important things that poor people need that seem to be largely inaccessible, and it makes getting the available resources, like Food Stamps, difficult as well.

When talking to anyone about these issues, it becomes clear that people don’t realize what privileges they have. The privileged tend to give the worst advice, even those working with programs that are supposed to help the poor, like the Salvation Army. Even the resource hotline in the USA, 2-1-1, has been stumped when trying to help me get access to the resources I’m about to go into.

Here are some of the things people don’t realize are necessities and are largely inaccessible.

Toiletries, Diapers, and Feminine Hygiene Products

It’s definitely a cis man’s world. Back when I used to work with HSAs (Health Spending Accounts) and FSAs (Flexible Spending Accounts) in 2020, it shocked me how menstrual care products weren’t even covered pre-tax as a qualified medical expense. But Viagra was. Eventually, the government caved during the Pandemic, but why did it take all of that to get this necessity covered?

Men don’t need Viagra; those who menstruate do need menstrual products. They can’t help that blood comes out of them every month.

I have fibroids, huge ones, and bleed extremely heavy every month. I’m sure readers don’t want to hear all of that, but the problem is that no one wants to talk about it. We need to talk about this. For many poor people, trying to find any services that offer free feminine hygiene products is horrifying.

People who menstruate also need toiletries, like toilet paper and soap.

Sure, I’ve had people tell me about their old grandma in the 1940s who used rags. They also used old t-shirts as pads. But tell me how many of them didn’t have soap to wash these rags after every use? How many people had proper drying racks for hanging?

They all cost, and I’m sure when people suddenly become poor nowadays, they don’t have these items available because they never thought they would need it. They also can’t just get up and go buy these things.

Further, how many people truly got infections back then because they didn’t fully clean their rags, which probably needed Bleach? Probably many more people.

Also, how many old shirts can one find in a year? How many rags need to be ruined to the point you don’t even have any to wash your body or your dishes? I don’t have a dishwasher, so everything is washed by hand.

If your blood flow is as bad as mine, you’re running through rags and damaging them. Washing has to be consistent in order to avoid infection, which can be hard when you can’t afford SOAP.

It’s pathetic that there are food stamps but there are no “stamps” for these very important needs. Even the Salvation Army and other local programs have all the food and clothes in the world, but no toiletries and menstrual products.

If you have the privilege of having the internet, it’s difficult to find any programs across the whole country. The ones that exist only help their own small community, and they don’t offer any free shipping to another state.

My local hospital is in another town, far away, and doesn’t offer enough pads for the whole week. I have run through at least 3 big bags of Always’s Overnight per menstrual period, and this is with a menstrual cup (which I’m thankful I invested in years ago). This is aside from the fact there’s been a shortage recently.

Why aren’t enough people speaking up about this? Have people found a way around this issue, and I just don’t know about it?

Diapers are also overlooked by these programs. I’m sure it’s so the companies that make these products profit off of people for things they’ve made people dependent on. I get it. But, like with food, there still should be some sort of programs that allow people to access these necessities.

Assistance with Washing

Speaking of needing access to soap, I’d like to add that poor people do need help with washing. If you don’t live in a house with a washing machine and dryer, you either have to have soap to be able to wash clothes by hand, a drying rack or some way of drying the clothes outside, or you need money for the laundry mat. To add, poor people need to be able to find a laundry mat nearby in their neighborhood in the first place.

In my case, in my apartment, tenants have to pay to use the washing machines and dryers. The cost comes to 4.00 ($2.00 wash and $2.00 to dry) every two weeks. That’s a lot of money for someone with no money.

If an individual doesn’t have family members, friends, or even kind neighbors, what are the next best options? Sure, a poor person can make their own soap, granted they have the ingredients necessary lying around in their cupboards before they became broke, and wash by hand. It’s hard to dry without a drying rack, but I guess it can be done by laying clothes out on a bush or a few chairs.

But overall, something is going to cost eventually.

Without clean clothes, it’s hard to function, especially when you don’t have access to feminine hygiene products. People can’t even go on job interviews without clean clothes.

This is aside from the fact that finding clean clothes at shelters or at the Salvation Army is difficult, too. I don’t even want to go into trying to find clean underwear.

Phone, Internet, Printing, and Mailing Services

Even though the world has progressed, it appears that state resources haven’t. This is possibly just in my area, but phone service and internet are still not considered necessities. I wonder what these rich politicians would think if their services were suddenly cut off for the month.

Almost every resource available either requires people to call for an appointment or to go to the facility. If the building that offers the resource is way across town, it can be difficult to go directly to the place. Often times, the best way to reach any person or place is by phone. To add, afterwards, many of these places often call back with results. How can they reach people with no phone service?

If poor people apply for jobs, they often have to wait for a call back, too. How would they know if they got the job or not without phone service?

No one uses landline phones anymore. Everyone uses cell phone service because it’s convenient and safe to use in and out of the house. Why isn’t it covered as a utility yet? There are a few phone services that offer discounts, but if an individual is poor, they can’t afford to even pay the discounted price. The one source where the government pays for phone service requires a poor person to have a child.

I believe 911 never cuts off on a cell phone, but this is only a hunch. How can any poor person reach someone in an emergency situation?

Cell phones can also offer internet, so it has the ability to offer two services in one go.

It’s crazy how some people still think internet isn’t a necessity. The Pandemic taught everyone how important the internet is. If it weren’t for the internet, millions of people would have been out of work. Many companies would have shut down entirely.

Nowadays, most companies, even the fast food restaurants and local grocery stores, require people to apply for jobs online. I can’t tell you how many stores I’ve gone into that no longer offer hard copy applications anymore. Believe me, I’ve asked.

No one can just go up to a store manager and ask for side work anymore. We don’t live in that age. So why is the nation so behind in understanding how important this is?

The library would normally be the next best place to go, but my nearest library is literally two hours away, in another town. Also, it costs to use the internet in many libraries. Even $.50 is a lot for a poor person, especially when they are deciding whether to use the money to wash clothes, eat, or use the internet.

Printing and faxing are extra expenses aside from using the internet. I’ve come to realize that in order to get approved for state resources such as Food Assistance and Utility Assistance, I needed documentation to PROVE I needed it. In order to prove that, I needed to either have companies mail copies of important documentation to me or I needed to print it from my email. Often times, the window for turning in this documentation is very small. The easiest option is to have a company email documentation and print it off. But oops-that costs.

Many of these services don’t allow poor people to print at their facilities. So, how are poor people supposed to prove they are poor when they are too poor to prove it?

Printing resumes is another important chore. Who offers services for that? Poor people are often talked down on, told they are bums, that they just don’t want to work, considering so many jobs are supposedly “hiring everywhere now”. Well, who is helping these poor people print off their resumes, something required by nearly every job now?

And after printing all of these documents, trying to get it to the facilities without proper transportation can be extremely difficult. Mailing is an option, but it’s also a costly one. The cost to send even one simple letter has gone up over the years, and it can be a lot for a poor person, especially for someone who is sending documents to more than one facility.

Resume-Building and Interview Assistance

While we’re on the subject of resumes, it’s very clear a lot of poor people need help with building their resumes and preparing for interviews. Many people have been on their personal jobs for years before being let go. The Pandemic put a lot of people out of jobs they’ve been on for many years. Their resumes may no longer be as strong as it was before and their interview finesse may be lacking.

But getting help with resumes and interviews is a very costly thing. When trying to put myself out there, I’ve landed many interviews, but haven’t gotten any jobs. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I also don’t have the money to find out.

There are programs that help poor people find work without resumes, but those programs usually require poor people to travel across town to long-distance facilities. Most of these programs exist in Urban areas, not small towns.


I’ve mentioned throughout most of this article how “this was way across town” or “that is far away”. This leans into the most difficult thing for poor people to find: transportation. People don’t realize how privileged they are to have it.

I spoke with a representative working with the Salvation Army. She told me that I needed to come into the facility the very next day to get help with my utilities, otherwise the money could dry up quickly or it will be used before I got there. I asked her how I could get there. She said “Take the bus” or get an “Uber”. She’s clearly never been poor in the town she works in, which is my town.

Those are very condescending words when speaking to poor people. First off, believe it or not, in my neighborhood, public transportation largely doesn’t exist. Believe it or not, public transportation isn’t available everywhere. Yes, you read that correctly. No bus service, at all. Second, the bus costs nearly $2.00 to take, both to travel to a destination and to get home. Most poor people would have to beg on the streets to get that kind of money for transportation, especially when they are trying to save their change for the other costly items mentioned before.

There is a “free ride” service in my community, but riders have to call two weeks in advance to schedule in a ride. That’s not helpful when the Salvation Army tells people to get there the next day or risk losing resources. It’s also not helpful when poor people need to make several trips throughout the week to get documentation, to go on job interviews, or to go get groceries and other important items.

Walking is always an option. However, the summer is blazing hot and the winters are bitter cold where I live. During the summer, I didn’t have money for sunscreen, so my walk to my nearest resource center gave me sunburn. And Aloe Vera isn’t free, either. Poor people also need to be able to carry water. That means they need a container to put the water in. Bottled water isn’t free.

During the Winter, poor people need adequate hats and gloves to walk the two hours it takes to get to the facility that helps with Utility and Food Assistance. It’s not so nice to have to walk to these facilities in mountains of snow, either.


Being poor has helped me check my former privilege in ways unimaginable. Before being poor, I thought I knew what was most important: Food and shelter. But no. Our society has developed in a way that has made us dependent on certain resources that there’s no way to live without it. Unless the solution is to have poor people die off in a “survival-of-the-fittest” type of way, the USA needs to do more to help the poor.

There needs to be programs that offer feminine hygiene products, soap, and toiletries. There should be “banks” or drives that offer that. Possibly Incontinence and Feminine Products Stamps. There should be vouchers or community washing machines somewhere in every community. It should be as available as libraries. At least, apartments should have one free washing machine and dryer for residents. Phones and Internet are now necessities and should be covered by the same programs that offer Food and Utility Assistance. These facilities that offer assistance programs should invest in transportation and should allow poor people to print and gather documentation at their facilities. Every community, at minimum, should have public transportation. The window for gathering documentation should be longer than 10 days. The Salvation Army shouldn’t make appointments with people if there’s no guarantee the money won’t be there. The appointments’ line order should decide who gets the available money. This ensures poor people aren’t wasting their time setting up a date and crawling around for transportation only to find the money is dried up by the time they find something. Every community should have a career center that helps adults transition back to work. At minimum, people can make appointments with a career expert and have them review resumes.

As the elections come up, I think citizens need to think more about where their tax money is going and whether it will help them, in the long run, when they’re at their lowest. That should shape our politics, who we vote for, and the changes we want to see in the future. There’s no way a supposed “1st world country”, such as the USA, should have so many issues dealing with the poor, yet here we are.

If you need another great read, check out: openDemocracy’s If You’ve Never Lived In Poverty, Stop Telling Poor People What They Should Do. It’s very good for people who are interested in giving advice to friends and family members in poverty.

Please think before you speak and be kind.

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