DSS programs helped lift two women up - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

DSS programs helped lift two women up

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If you lose your job or if your circumstances change and you can no longer support your family or your lifestyle, what do you do?

It's a common problem, but there are programs with the state Social Services Department that are trying to help.

When you think about welfare, the image usually isn't a good one. There are so many negative stereotypes about who takes advantage of assistance from the government.

We met two women who say they were out of options when they went on welfare. But today, they are self-sufficient.

Let's start with the story of Janea' Harris, a mother of two with a college degree who was in the military.

"I cried when I first walked into the building and I was just saying to my friend, 'I'm not supposed to be here,'" said Harris.

A few years ago, Harris' life changed and she needed help.

"Everybody has their own struggle. Everybody has a choice to make. My choice was to never get on food stamps or receive assistance from the government," said Harris. "I didn't want to do it, but I knew that because I didn't have any other support."

LoAnn Tavares Smith lost her job, and she also needed help for a few years.

"Those out there that think it's a negative program. It's not. You look down on the people that are actually in it," said Smith. "Put yourself in our shoes. Think about having to feed someone else a part from yourself and maintain their life and well-being and if you no longer have the income you have today. What would you do?"

Ken Claxton hired Smith through a job development program with DSS.

"For the first six months, they reimburse you for half of the employee's salary which as a business owner it's good for me," said Claxton.

Job developers across the state try to match qualified candidates with employers.

"We save them time and money because we can go through the applications and send them qualified candidates so they don't have to take the time going through stacks of applications," said Darrell Kershaw, a DSS job developer.

Those stacks of applications are a small problem compared to the problems of many welfare recipients being considered "lazy" or "irresponsible" by others.

"I was a little hesitant but I figured that everybody needs a shot and I wasn't going to not hire someone because of my preconceived notions," said Claxton.

It was a fight Harris even had to battle. But it was a battle she won.

"As far as me using it as a crutch or just using it because I want to use assistance," said Harris. "No, I used it to help better myself."

Janea has a full-time job, a house, started a girls mentoring program and is no longer receiving benefits. Harris and Smith say they made the choice to be independent.

"I feel proud that I was able to be on the program and I feel proud that I was able to come off the program and I'm even prouder that I'm able to stay off the program," Smith said.

The job developers also work with those who are not receiving SNAP benefits or other government assistance. There's a program called "Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents" and that helps skilled individuals who lost their job get back to work.

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