DEAR ABBY: I can relate to "Elizabeth B. in Fresno, Calif.," who is struggling on welfare and has to contend with the disapproval of others. When I was 19, my husband walked out on me and our infant. I had nowhere else to turn, and was on welfare from 1975 to 1978.
Abby, after I received my AFDC check and paid my rent, phone and light bills, I had $5 left each month. Food stamps cannot be used to purchase diapers, toiletries or even laundry detergent. If it hadn't been for my family sharing these items with me, I don't know what would have happened to us. Because I was so embarrassed by the disparaging looks I received, I tried to shop for groceries when the store was least busy.
Things began to turn around when my case worker phoned to tell me about a job that was available through the CETA (Comprehensive Employment Training Act) program. My first job was clerking for the Department of Public Assistance. While I was learning skills, I was earning an income, and I have been working ever since.
Hang in there, Elizabeth, and don't give up. I know it's hard to ignore the nasty remarks and looks, but someone will give you your chance. I have owned my own business for eight years now, and I would hire you. -- WORKED OFF WELFARE
DEAR WORKED OFF WELFARE: I'm printing your success story for Elizabeth and others like her to see. You are a voice for people everywhere who have struggled through difficult periods and pulled through -- not only intact, but improved. My hat's off to you.
For readers who are interested, the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) replaced CETA in 1983. Its purpose is to assist youths and unskilled adults enter the labor force. For more information, contact your state employment office.