Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Humble Perspective

Many, if not most, of our Ranchers have been on the waiting list for government funding for 10 years or more. Our Ranchers' families pay out of their own pockets in order to place their Rancher at TCR and many pay dearly in terms of doing without. The people who pay the bills are parents with households and businesses to consider; elderly parents living on a fixed income; siblings raising their own children or grandchildren and trying to pay for college; and Ranchers, themselves, who are quickly using up the money left to them through a settlement or trust fund.

The Ranch intentionally works hard at keeping costs at a minimum. I don't think you'll find an organization that does more with less than TCR. But...costs rise every year and our Ranchers' resources diminish. SSI and SSDI funds don't provide enough to cover a person's basic needs, reducing them to living in poverty if this is their only resource. Taxes go up, stock markets go down, food costs rise, electricity and propane bills skyrocket, and the cost of paying qualified staff goes up proportionately.

For a person with intellectual disabilities, making up the difference is not just a matter of going and getting a second job. Indeed, getting a first job is difficult, if not downright impossible, depending on the disability. Very few employers want to deal with a seizure disorder or bear the cost of providing the kind of oversight that our Ranchers need while working. No, most people with disabilities depend on others to provide the necessities of life, whether this translates to family or government, and the people that control the purse strings effectively control their world.

So why am I telling you this?

I'm telling you this because our Ranchers live at the Ranch both by choice and by necessity. Some families choose to stay in control of their loved one's world, rather than give them over to a system that has set them up to fail in the past. Others are waiting for the government money to come through, but there just isn't enough money to go around; the list gets longer every day and there doesn't seem to be a logical way for the average Joe to predict how that money will be allocated.

So whose job is it, anyway, to provide for adults with disabilities? In my humble opinion, it's the job of the family, the community and church all working together, caring for their own. I'm not a big fan of the "it takes a village" mentality, but in this scenario, it is applicable. If the community and the church would get behind a family with a disabled child, we wouldn't need government programs that regulate us into poverty. If the community and the church invested in their own members, people with disabilities could live where it was best for them, and not be forced into a "one size fits all" mold. If the community and the church focused on doing the right thing in their own hometowns, the only people who would live in poverty would be those who actively chose it.

Pie in the sky? Maybe. Disagree if you want. Say it's a pipe dream if you want to, but I'll tell you that here at the Ranch we have as close to this dream as I've ever seen. Community and church work together here to help provide a hope and a future for 10 disabled people. Yes, the cost is high. Yes, it gets messy. No, it's not perfect, but neither are the people who are investing in us. However, the process not only provides assistance for our Ranchers, but creates human beings with heart and compassion--pretty rare commodities these days.

And where do you fit? My challenge to you is to go out and find a way to invest in your local community and those people at risk that are near to you. Take care of home before you branch out, and then...branch out. Enlarge your community to encompass more and more people. Go on. They need you. They're waiting for you.