Need Stems From Misfortune, Not An Opportunity To 'Milk The System'

I am sick and tired, and very disappointed.

I am sick. Sick of people assuming that everyone that needs affordable housing is either lazy, uneducated, poor due to their own fault, or somehow “scamming” the system.

Most people don’t think about the good that affordable housing does until it hits them close to home. It’s easy to make judgments when you’re living in a safe, sanitary, affordable home. How many of us, though, are just one tragedy away from needing it ourselves? Have you ever thought about what would happen if you were faced with a tragedy and could no longer afford the cost of your housing? In reality, herein lies the reason—tragedy—for most people needing affordable housing.

I’m also tired. Tired of people who lump everyone together and claim that those in need of affordable housing are somehow all “milking the system.” Although there are definitely those cases where people are taking advantage of the system, the majority of people that need assistance are actually honest, hard-working people who are just trying to survive on this expensive peninsula of Cape Cod.

During my 27 years in this field, I’ve heard more sad stories then I can repeat here:

The mother who finally got up the guts to flee from her abusive spouse, taking her three children with her so that they would be safe too. The husband was the breadwinner and she stayed home as the housewife and caretaker for their three young children. She just wanted what everyone else wants: a loving, supportive, safe family unit but she didn’t get that. Should she have stayed with her husband and allowed him to beat her, sometimes in front of the children, or did she deserve to make a fresh start?

What about the man whose wife loses her battle with cancer, leaving him a widower and single dad to two very young girls. The gentleman made decent wages and the couple had been making it but only because the woman was able to stay home with her young children so they didn’t have daycare costs. Now this widower is left with two under-5 children who he now needs to get daycare for. With the cost of daycare, he ended up spending about 80 percent of his remaining income on the mortgage. Obviously, something had to give and he ended up losing his home. Doesn’t this family deserve a little help to get back on their feet?

How about the elderly woman who finally gets into an affordable apartment after her son and daughter-in-law agreed to contribute to the monthly rent and then a year or so later they decide they don’t want to help anymore.

How can someone with an $800-a-month income pay $700 a month in rent with only $100 left to survive? Should she be booted out on the street?

My point is there are several things that can happen in one’s life that can quickly change one’s ability to afford their living expenses. Whether it be death, disability, job loss, divorce, or abuse, there are circumstances that arise usually due to no fault of that person. This is called life. And when you think about your life, where is the place that you most feel comfortable? It’s usually your home. If you have a safe harbor—a home—to go to each day, sometimes the other things in life that challenge us can be more manageable. But can you imagine not having a home or being in a situation where you were going to lose your home? Just take one minute to imagine that.

And finally, I’m disappointed. Disappointed in some of the townspeople, many of whom are very well-educated people, yet fail to see that there are people genuinely in need and require assistance from the town and its housing authority. Instead of being supportive of the work that is trying to be done to help Mashpee residents who are in need, there are inappropriate, unjustified allegations coming from some of our leaders and witch hunts that have been started by those who think the needy shouldn’t be helped.

It’s very frustrating and very disappointing, and most of the time my job is thankless, yet I remain committed to helping Mashpee residents who are most in need. It’s the right thing to do.

I urge everyone who reads this to try to imagine one of their loved ones—if not themselves—being in one of these unfortunate situations and see how it makes them feel.

But for the grace of God, there go I.

(Ms. Botsford is executive director of the Mashpee Housing Authority.)


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  • fastestmz3

    There is a huge difference between education and wisdom. It is proven every day by people who are "educated" and know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Well said, Ms. Botsford. Please continue your fine work.