By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"There're always going to be poor people," says Joanie. "So what are those poor people supposed to do when GR ends and no one wants to hire 'em? When GR ends, things are going to get real tough. It's going to be like the big Depression has come back to Los Angeles."
THOSE DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FATE OF THE General Relief Program -- the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Department of Social Services -- admit that the new GR time limits are potentially problematic. However, both tend to point the finger of blame for the looming catastrophe elsewhere. "It's premature to say we're worried," says program manager Quinn. "But, yes, there is concern. This is a very vulnerable population. Let me put it this way. Time limits were not something anyone at DPSS wanted to see. For that, you'll need to talk to the Board of Supervisors." ã
Joel Bellman, press deputy for Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, says the problem is not with the board's decision, but with the Department of Public Social Services and its implementation of the GROW program. "The supervisors voted unanimously that the way to end the cycle of dependency was to prospectively limit the time GR recipients could draw benefits," says Bellman. "The board collectively believes the economic climate is healthy enough now that, given the tools and opportunities, most GR recipients can find jobs. So we're sitting on the Department of Social Services to make sure those tools and opportunities are made available. But if there is an expectation that the board is going to blink in September and extend time limits, what incentive is there for DPSS and the client population to get their respective acts together?"
Miguel Santana, deputy to Supervisor Gloria Molina, states it flatly: "The board will not change its mind on time limits. What we'd like to see instead," he says, "is a better case-management system in which caseworkers have the authority to analyze each client's situation and make individual recommendations." But such a scenario would require an overhaul of the entire system. "Exactly," says Santana. "We'd like this program to be flexible enough to be effective for all its clients. And if that's not happening we need to analyze why."
Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking for Joanie.
THURSDAY, APRIL 15, AT 6:30 P.M., A WOMAN FROM California Hospital finally calls Joanie back. Can she come in for an interview the next morning? "I certainly can," Joanie replies. When she hangs up the phone, she's so happy she actually bounces up and down on her bed a few times, then dials her mother and shrieks the good news: "I got me a job interview!"
Friday, Joanie arrives at 8:10 a.m. for the 9:30 appointment. "But I wasn't even nervous," she says. "I wore my new peach pantsuit, the one I just bought last week. I know they really look at your grooming, so I had touched up my nails and pinned up my hair. I also wore a nice perfume, White Shoulders, that I got on sale for $8 a while ago at a store that was going out of business."
The interview lasted 20 minutes, and Joanie is sure she handled it well. "I took both of my hands and I put them on top of the table so they wouldn't shake," she says. "Right away, they asked what I wanted to be doing in five years, and I said I want to be a supervisor. I was scared to death. But these interviewer ladies were nice, and I think I gave good answers. I only started shaking after I left." She cocks her head to the side quizzically. "You know, out of all the applications I put in since 1993, this is the first place that called me back. That must mean somethin'."
The two personnel women promised to let her know the following Monday, the 19th. Joanie floats happily through the weekend, but then Monday comes and goes without a telephone call. "No news is good news," she says. That night she does a couple more loads of laundry, this time towels and her bedspread. "I was singing the whole time," she says. "I kept singing, 'This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine' . . ."
On Tuesday, the 20th, there is still no word, and Joanie's perspective has retreated to philosophical. "If they call me, they call me," she says. She considers going over to the GROW office again to check the job boards, but a friend who has just been there says the listings haven't changed since her last visit. Instead she decides to go over the résumé she wrote during her GROW training. It reads, "I'm hardworking and always on time. I'm friendly and work well with others. I follow directions well." Under job experience she has written only, "1993, 1 year at Martin Luther King Hospital."
By Friday, California Hospital still hasn't called, and even optimistic Joanie concedes it is a dead issue. Worse, the job possibility with her friend at Harbor General has dried up. "Turned out she had it wrong. They aren't hiring till July," Joanie says. "But July isn't that far away. And in the meantime, I'm just going to keep on going." Early next week, she plans to drop by Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital and Children's Hospital. "Even though nobody has told me that they're hiring, who knows?" she says. "It could happen."