The following is a Letter To The Editor from Roberta Kramer, chairperson of the Women’s Treatment Center of Illinois.
Those without a voice are among those hardest hit in Pat Quinn’s new state budget. Slashing resources and support to Illinois’s most vulnerable – namely women and children living in poverty – would be expected in a state like New Jersey or Wisconsin, but comes as a surprise here in Illinois. Drastic cuts to our schools and human services may be a short term band aid solution for balancing our state’s 2011/2012 budget, but we must ask ourselves at what cost to our state’s future?
Ask Camilla Y. how the Governor’s budget will impact a family like hers and she will tell you about her struggle to break away from a lifetime of drug addiction, poverty and incarceration. A new way of living became possible when she and her four children enrolled as residents of the Women’s Treatment Center of Illinois. After completing treatment, job training and a savings program, today Camilla has her own apartment, is employed full-time as a chef, and her children are thriving.
Camilla is one of 1200 women and their 400 children who are welcomed through our doors each year. Through a continuum of care, women like Camilla can bootstrap themselves into a sober lifestyle as we provide the support they need to rebuild their lives and the lives of their children.
Programs such as ours along with hundreds of other human services set to go on the chopping block aren’t simply handouts to our state’s most needy. Instead, today’s human services programs are the engines to our state’s economic development and growth. We get people off the streets and teach them to invest in themselves and their families so that they may enter the economic mainstream of our state. Programs that successfully place people back into the job market and lessen the state’s obligations are not only investments in the lives of our neighbors, but also investments in our states economic future.
As we wind down from a long weekend of BBQ’s and celebrations of our nation’s independence, it’s hard to find the patriotism in our state’s spending priorities. A community is only as strong as its weakest link; and budget priorities reflect our deepest values and aspirations. I can’t help but feel like our state is moving in a direction which is quite unpatriotic.
Roberta Kramer is chairperson of the Women’s Treatment Center of Illinois. She has served as a volunteer for over 8 years.