Protecting Basic Living Standards

barbed wire: a metaphor for barriers to government benefitsPoverty is the driving cause of food insecurity and hunger, which take an enormous toll on people’s lives and our communities. More than half of Americans age 25 to 60 will face poverty for at least a year of their lives. This is typically due to a sudden change in life’s circumstances and a lack of family wealth.

It is critical that in these times people are not forced to rely on charity. Charity helps, but it can’t come close to meeting the needs of the roughly 43 million Americans – including 13% of Allegheny County residents, more than 1/3 of them children and seniors – who are currently living in poverty.

Only government programs have the power and reach to help people afford the basics like food, medical care, and housing. They ensure a humane standard of living in this country and also provide necessary investments in under-served communities.

Government assistance helps people on a fixed income, like seniors and people with disabilities. These programs also lift up low-income working adults and families.

For years, Just Harvest has been helping Allegheny County residents understand their rights and overcome the obstacles they run into when applying for government benefits that reduce hunger and poverty – food stamps as well as cash assistance, medical benefits, child care, and LIHEAP – through Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services County Assistance Offices.

Just Harvest and its members also advocate statewide and nationally for a more compassionate government benefits (or “welfare”) system. We believe that everyone has the right to a dignified life, a voice in the decisions that affect them, and a clear path to self-sufficiency.

Unfortunately, the existing welfare system is often humiliating, frustrating, and unfair. It suffers from insufficient funding, poor policy implementation and administrative inefficiency, and misguided policies. This denies, delays or deters many eligible people from receiving the public aid they need.

Through one-on-one client support and advocacy we strive to eliminate unnecessary barriers to government assistance in times of need.

We also aim to improve the quality of public safety net programs like cash assistance (TANF), nutrition assistance (SNAP/food stamps), home heating assistance (LIHEAP) and others by:

  • lobbying for more sensible, compassionate, and fair government assistance policies at the federal and state level;
  • holding policy-makers and government agencies directly accountable to assistance clients;
  • educating the public about the realities of the welfare system; and
  • working to improve DHS customer service and to make high-quality service more accessible.