February League Day






Speaker: Gil Nelson, Director of Family Services, Union Station

Speaker: Socorro Naranjo Rocha, Pasadena Unified School District
                    Families in Transition Program

Hunger in America

A 5 percent cut in food stamps makes a big difference to people already in precarious financial positions, the LWV-PA meeting on February 7 made clear. Reduction of food stamps means families have to supplement their food budgets with cash, which would have been used to pay the rent, the utilities, or the gas bill. This domino effect can force people into homelessness, especially when combined with medical expenses and other emergencies. If they are already homeless, it makes their situations more dire.

In a program organized by Connie Aguilar, Socorro Rocha, head of PUSD’s Families in Transition office, and Gil Nelson, of Union Station, described the effects of food stamp cuts on the people they serve.

Rocha’s Families in Transition program serves 859 children who are identified as homeless, but her guess is that there are many other families in the same situation. Her primary task is to ensure that the children keep going to school. However, with food stamp reductions, she is seeing families not washing clothes or shampooing because they must use their money for food instead of toiletries and detergent. Parents may keep kids out of school because they are dirty or don’t have clean clothes to wear. Her office provides emergency food supplies and toiletries and even has a washing machine for their use. All school districts nationwide must have similar programs as a result of a law passed under “No Child Left Behind.” The law mandates that homeless children must have equal educational opportunities no matter what their families’ circumstances.

Angélica Monteroso, a single mom of four, shared her struggle to work part-time, attend school at PCC to improve her job skills, and feed and care for four young children. For her, a cut of fifty dollars has left her with $500 of food stamps per month to feed her growing kids.
Gil Nelson of Union Station describes his clientele as extremely impoverished. Many of these people depend on food stamps. A single person on food stamps gets about $47 dollars a week for food. A reduction of just a few dollars means hungry days for them. Union Station serves families with temporary shelter and up to two years of transitional housing with supportive services. Shelter clients are required to save money for rent for when they move into private housing, but food stamp reductions cut into the funds that they could save.

At the end of the program, Donovan Steutel, our Advocacy Director, challenged anyone in the audience to try to eat for a week on $47.00 and report about the experience. He didn’t get any takers until someone suggested a friend who has lost her job and apartment and would appreciate having money for food.

If you would like to contribute to the Families in Transition fund for helping homeless children, you can write a check to P.E.F. (Pasadena Educational Foundation) and write on the memo line “F.I.T.” (Families in Transition). Donations of other items for their pantry are also welcome.

—Marty Giffen