York poor at edge of real “fiscal cliff”

adys@heraldonline.comDecember 1, 2012 

  • Want to help? PATH, located at 204 Raille St., York, is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. Call 803-684-3992, or write to P.O. Box 52, York, S.C. 29745. More online To see more pictures and watch a video, go to heraldonline.com.

— Something called the “fiscal cliff” is talked about constantly by politicians and the media in Washington – as if these people have ever faced a real cliff or a real crisis of not having enough money to avoid the abyss.

A cliff is where somebody stands on the edge, looking down into darkness that does not end.

Only bureaucrats and their flunkies use the word “fiscal,” because it is somebody else’s money and those people have all they need.

Real people use the word “money” – and there is never enough when those real people are poor and broke and unemployed.

That money cliff is where Ash Bryant, 26, of York, stood Wednesday with a year-old baby and a utilities disconnection notice. She sat in the waiting room at PATH – People Attempting To Help – and looked off that cliff.

All she saw was darkness.

“My husband got laid off from his job, hardwood floors, because there is no work,” Bryant said. “Thursday, the lights get turned off. The heat. I know what a fiscal cliff is. I am standing on it. I don’t have even a dollar in my purse.”

No politician will cry over this fiscal cliff. Bryant tried not to cry, but she failed because there is just one way off the cliff and it is down.

“My son will have a Christmas if it kills me,” Bryant said.

Santa will arrive in darkness.

She wiped the tears as politicians brayed about fiscal cliffs, then prepared for press conferences and speeches and roundtables with other smart people.

The people who pay the taxes and get the benefits after lifetimes of work hope all those eggheads who talk about the fiscal cliff will jump off. Some will offer to push them.

The non-profit PATH is so overrun with requests for help from people such as Bryant that there is no money left to give out, said Cheryl Curtin, executive director.

The line for help was full before the doors even opened at 9 a.m. Wednesday. The doors were opened, everybody shivering outside came in, and the door was locked again.

PATH can help only 25 people a day, three days a week – but as many as 80 people have been showing up daily. That’s 80 fiscal cliffs.

Curtin said that the money is gone for a room full of people on the fiscal cliff who came to PATH Wednesday, hoping for money for lights and rent.

Curtin, unlike any politician, pulls no punches and tells no lies and uses no terms such as “fiscal cliff.”

“The money has run out,” she said.

PATH volunteers handed out bags and boxes of food, but there is not another dollar to give out.

“We had money for the past 11 months, but right now we have no money at all,” Curtin told that room of women and men, black and white, young and old, black and white and Latino. A woman translated English to Spanish for one family of three women.

Those three faces fell – right off the fiscal cliff – when the words “no money” were translated.

A lady with two kids – and a belly that obviously meant a third was on the way – said her pregnancy has medical complications that forced her to quit working. She asked if there was anywhere she could sign up for Christmas gifts for her kids.

“I always worked, they always had Christmas,” the lady said.

She was asked where the father was.

“Incarcerated,” she said.

This lady is so used to political terms such as fiscal cliff clouding up her life that that she did not even say the word real people use – “jail.”

The father is in jail and the mother and two kids and one on the way are in a money jail because of it. The kids are on a fiscal cliff.

Curtin, the bearer of good news for people with help so many days of the year, had to tell the lady and the whole room that most non-profits and churches had already completed toy and gift “adoption” of families and children for the holidays.

“I wish I had something or someone to offer you on that,” Curtin told the room.

Linda Rowles waited in line, not for herself, but because she is a caretaker for a disabled man under hospice care whose benefits have not kept up with the cost of disease. That man is on the fiscal cliff right now, waiting to die, without enough to eat.

“If I don’t get help for this man, he will not have any lights,” said Rowles.

She was asked if this was the “fiscal cliff.”

“It’s already over the edge of the cliff,” Rowles said. “It’s a shame, is what it is.”

James Cooney, 50, talked about how PATH is the only thing standing between people such as him and despair. Cooney used the term, “the fiscal cliff” because that term is used by so many newscasters and more who have no idea what it is, but use it anyway because everybody else is doing it.

“These politicians wouldn’t know what it is like not to have money to keep the lights on, or something to eat,” Cooney said. “What do they know about any cliff? They all are rich and they talk about money for benefits that people worked for all their lives and earned like they are going to have to make some big sacrifice.”

Yet at places such as PATH, the way out does not involve throwing oneself off the cliff. The food, all donated, comes in to staff, all volunteers. York Electric Cooperative employees Brian Bolin and Wes Dover brought two pickups of food donated by employees. A Walgreen’s employee brought food. Other deliveries came in.

Volunteers stacked and inventoried food, gave out meat and bread and canned goods. The clients were helped and hugged and given food and smiles.

A woman at least 75 years old, bent, took her box of food off a cart to her car. The box was heavy. The car was built in the last century. She steadied the box on the ledge of the bumper to get it in the trunk.

She worked in a textile mill all her life and now politicians are talking about the benefits that she earned that are not enough now to keep the lights on, and the refrigerator with anything in it, as a “fiscal cliff.”

“Now I don’t have to jump off the cliff,” she said.

Andrew Dys 803-329-4065 adys@heraldonline.com

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