500 Seek Escape From Welfare at Conference

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Times Staff Writer

Barbara Waller of Pasadena did not want to become a welfare statistic when her son was born eight years ago, she said, but the only jobs she could find did not pay enough to make ends meet.

“I want to work and support myself but I can’t survive on the money I’d make cleaning,” Waller said. “Train me to get a job where I can have a future, don’t stick a mop and broom in my hand.”

Low-Income People That is why Waller, 28, a single parent, was one of 500 people at the daylong information conference sponsored by Foothill Area Communities Inc. (FACS) of Pasadena.


The conference included workshops on employment, housing and consumer education for low-income residents of the foothill area.

“If I could find a good-paying job, I could get off welfare,” Waller said. “I could support myself and my son and maybe even buy a house. That’s my dream, but the way I’m going, I’ll never make it.”

State Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), a speaker at last week’s conference, said that when the War on Poverty programs were initiated 20 years ago, they responded to the most pressing need--daily survival.

“When you are hungry and have no place to go, that’s what you need help with,” she said in a speech at the conference held last week in the Jackie Robinson Center.

However, she said, the program was not created to trap people in a welfare treadmill. “We don’t want people forced to continue to receive assistance because they don’t have the skills needed for good-paying jobs,” she said. “We are still providing humanistic programs for people in financial need, but we’ve got to provide education and training along with the assistance.”

‘The Way to Go’ According to Raymond Loftin, executive director of FACS, “Helping people discover how the system works and helping them equip themselves for it, that’s the way to go today.”


Throughout the course of the day, residents of Pasadena, South Pasadena, Altadena, Sierra Madre, Monrovia, Duarte and Arcadia listened to how they could prepare themselves for job interviews, cook with government surplus food, fill out tax forms, reduce their utility bills and handle landlord/tenant problems.

Tips on housing drew the most interest.

Almost 150 people attended the session on how to purchase fixer-uppers, avoid foreclosures, find government subsidized housing, recognize scams, find creative financing and use tax deferments.

‘I Want Stability’ “I have always been told I am too young to own a home but now I see maybe I do have a chance,” said Ruth Curlin, 21. “I want stability and a place to call my own.”

Gary Armstrong, 25, of Pasadena has been unemployed for two months but said he attends the free housing seminars and workshops regularly.

“I’d like to get into real estate and learn how to make the right decisions on buying a home,” Armstrong said. “I don’t want to get taken.”

Danny and Carrie Lopez have two small children and live in an apartment. Despite the combined income, the couple cannot afford a down payment for a two-bedroom house.


Landlord Gets Money “We look at houses, but we can’t afford them so we stay in our apartment and give our money to the landlord,” he said. At the workshop, the Lopezes learned they could qualify for a government-subsidized home.

Representatives from the Social Security office, the Pasadena Department of Public Social Service, the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Ministerial Alliance and FACS participated in a panel discussion on the direction their agencies are taking in the 80s.

More than 30 other agencies, including Planned Parenthood, the Crime Resistance Involvement Council, the Community Skills Center, the Pasadena Urban League, the Community Dispute Resolution Center, the Pasadena Mental Health Assn. and the Welfare Rights Organization set up information booths.