Brand new and very smart writer (and USC graduate student), Matt Mundy has written a strong piece on General Relief in LA Citybeat. It’s very much worth reading. Here are the first few ‘graphs to get you started.
Arthur Walker is unsure where he’s going to sleep tonight. Slumped at the back of the Department of Public Social Services office on the fringe of Los Angeles’ Skid Row, he’s put in a long, restless, eight-hour day. A hint of fidgetiness emerges every so often, but it’s obvious he’s been here before. If waiting were a card game, his slump would be his tell.
Desperately poor with a lifetime of hard knocks weighing him down in his chair, the 38-year-old African American fits in well with the other people crammed into this office. Overweight and bald, glasses adding a semblance of scholarliness to a baby face notable for its soft anonymity, he cuts a sympathetic figure. His voice has an understated urgency to it, words tumbling out at a rhythmic clip, rising only when he gets frustrated.
After passing through the metal detector at the front door, Walker joins dozens of others shoehorned into the cramped, windowless office, waiting for their names – many waiting for hours – to be called out over the crackling intercom. Two large sections of faded-green, stiff-backed chairs provide the seating areas, where some have already fallen asleep, limbs uncomfortably splayed out. Two upright fans futilely recycle the rank air while a lopsided television hangs in one corner, turned off. Everyone looks miserable.
Walker is here to grasp at the last rung on the welfare ladder for single, childless adults: General Relief. But it’s a slippery rung. At just $221 a month, no one can survive on it for long, and it’s a short fall to the streets. That’s beside the point for Walker right now – he must get approved first, and the earliest the money can come will be next month, too late to help him out tonight.
The rest is here.