By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
Image via www.drtomoconnor.com/4090/4090lect02.htm
I dislike bureaucracy-intensely.
Just the word conjures up very negative connotations.
Here’s one definition. It reads in part, “A bureaucracy is an organization made up of many departments and divisions that are administered by lots of people. If you’ve ever had to deal with health insurance or financial aid, you’re familiar with the dark side of bureaucracy.”
The definition continues, “ Bureaucracy has a bad reputation because it has come to mean an organization or government that is chin-deep in red tape and unnecessary procedures. When dealing with a bureaucracy, expect to fill out lots of forms and wait.”
I couldn’t say it better.
Hungry and homeless people seem to have more than their fair share of bureaucracy, and I wondered how many of our Joy Junction guests had their fill of it
I asked Denis Billy, our resident services manager, to see what he could find out.
One man told about his experience applying for food stamps in Missouri. He said he began the process by waiting three hours to see a case worker. Then he had to provide “proof” he was homeless.
The man continued, “It was so frustrating because I was living under a bridge at the time. How much more homeless could I have been? The experience was humiliating and degrading. The workers were a little rude and insensitive.”
We obviously want to make sure that taxpayer funded government assistance only goes to those who really need it. But I have to ask whether the individual who originally created the form asking for “proof” of homelessness really stopped to consider the implications of what was being asked. My guess is that he (or she) didn’t.
Perhaps the thought process was that proof is asked for everyone else requesting help, why not the homeless? Bureaucracy looks at the “rules” and the “procedure,” without thinking that one size does not necessarily fit all.
Someone else related an equally negative experience applying for food stamps.
He said he waited for a couple of hours before seeing a case worker and providing the requested information.
“He asked me to go out in the lobby until they gave me the approval. I was called in again and was told that I would have to wait for two months for approval. They lied to me. I’m glad that I got my food stamps, but why make people wait so long and then lie?”
Prior to finding a place to stay at Joy Junction, one man had an ongoing series of bureaucratic run arounds trying to obtain low income housing. He said while he turned in the requested paperwork, that was as far as it got and it never found its way to the right people. He was forced to live in low rent motels, and spend all his social security income.
He described his experience with social security as one that encountered “a lot of bureaucracy.”
He said he’s grateful for the help provided by Joy Junction.
Another individual had a complaint about the bureaucracy he encountered at a local housing program. At one point, the man said, he was told he was very high on the list to get a house.
However, that changed recently. He said when he checked recently he had slipped to the mid six hundreds on the list.
He said, “Why? I never complained and always made it to my appointments.”
I know that in any organization typically considered a “bureaucracy,” there are many employees who care, and do the best they can to work through all the organizational red tape. All the clients whom they serve appreciate that so much.
However, sadly there are a number of people in organizations with whom the homeless and hungry are forced to interact who seem to revel in what most of us consider unnecessary procedures.
Their attitudes make the already difficult lives of the homeless and hungry even harder. Think about the instances of bureaucracy you’ve encountered in your life and picture dealing with them if you were homeless, hungry, despondent and discouraged. How would you have coped?