By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Sunday is the barbecue, so Joanie decides to put off her new church regimen for one more week. She takes the bus to her sister's place on Gage Avenue in South-Central and has a wonderful time at the party. However, her sister forgets to replace the bus tokens, and Joanie doesn't feel comfortable asking. "So I guess I'm going to have to break into the $20 I was going to use for the phone bill," she says when she gets home. The fact clearly depresses her.
Midmorning on Monday, her daughter calls and says she wants to take her to lunch "as an early Mother's Day treat." Joanie is still feeling blue, but she has run out of job leads to pursue so agrees to go. She says that the daughter is also on public assistance. "She used to work before the baby," she says. "And she's going to start again as soon as my grandbaby goes into kindergarten. I tell her, 'You make sure you go back into the work force. Don't be stupid and get stuck on welfare like I did.'"
Joanie and her daughter eat at a nearby Subway restaurant. After lunch, the daughter pulls a $100 bill out of her purse and thrusts it into Joanie's hands. "For you," she says. Joanie is embarrassed and tries to push the money away, but the daughter insists, telling her it's a Mother's Day gift from her and her brother. "We saved for it," she says.
Back home alone later, Joanie is giddy with relief. "Believe me, that money is going to be put to good use," she says. "I can take care of two months' rent now!" She pauses. "Of course, you can bet I won't report this to GR, or they'd cut it out of my benefits, and I'd be down to nothin' again."
IT IS SATURDAY, MAY 8, CHECK DAY AGAIN. THE $100 gift still has Joanie feeling so euphoric that on the way to pick up her benefits, she buys a $5 bouquet of roses for her mother from a man on the bus. Then she spends another $29 on clothes for her mom and herself to wear to church tomorrow, Mother's Day. "I know maybe I should have saved the money and not bought that stuff," she says. "But sometimes I just get tired of being poor."
By the end of the day, after doing her usual shopping for groceries, plus paying the rent and the phone bill, Joanie tries to muster some optimism. "I got a new tip on a job that I feel really good about," she says. "This time I really think I might get it . . ." Then her confidence seems to crack. She stops talking and looks away. "I try not to be worried," she says when her gaze returns. "But I want a job more than anything in the world. I'm proud that I raised two decent kids. And I'm proud that I can live on $221 a month and still keep my self-respect. But right now, all I want is to get up in the morning and have a place to go and put in my effort. I want to feel tired when I get home 'cause I worked hard. I want to go collect my paycheck on Friday. I want to open a bank account. I don't want to be scared all the time."
Joanie's eyes fill up with tears and panic. "My whole life would change if somebody would just give this lady a chance," she says. "I just don't know what I'm gonna do if I don't get a job. I really truly don't. I've been looking as much as I know how. What more am I supposed to be doing?"
Then Joanie Murray takes a deep breath, sits up very straight and smiles her most radiant smile. "But see, some nice person will give me that chance. I just know it. I do. I'm not giving up. I've got a really good feeling."
As of this writing, the county supervisors have not extended GR time limits, and Joanie Murray has not found a job.
*"Joanie Murray" is a pseudonym.