Jodi and Randy Speidel lived in Bellefontaine, Ohio. They were in their 40’s and both were unable to work due to chronic illnesses. They survived this past winter without gas heat, and could no longer afford to pay their water bill. They were unable to afford to feed their cats. So Mr. and Mrs. Speidel put the cats outside, put warning signs on the entrances, then closed themselves off in a bedroom with two charcoal grills and died of carbon monoxide poisoning. (source: Columbus Dispatch)
Mr. and Mrs. Speidel felt their situation was hopeless. They had tried every avenue they knew to obtain help, but help was simply not available to them. They had even posted on two internet sites asking for help. Funny how a young man got thousands of dollars just to make potato salad, and these two couldn’t get anything to help them have heat and water.
So here are some options that many people have since said they should have tried:
They should have asked friends and family for help. Apparently their family, at the very least, a daughter, knew of their circumstances, so I’m guessing they were helped as much as folks felt they could. Or else didn’t care enough to. I don’t know, but I’m hoping it’s the former.
They should have applied for assistance through community agencies. I can’t speak for every church, but most of the ones I work with want you to apply for help in person on a weekday morning. So that means for these two chronically ill people they must rise early and get a bus or walk to said church, wait in line, and give all sorts of personal information to hopefully be given a portion of they money they really need. Churches can only give what they have, and well, I’ve yet to work with a church that has an unlimited supply of funds for the poor here at home. Many limit their aid to a family to once a year.
Other agencies require much the same- a personal appearance at their office, lots of questioning, and then perhaps a pittance to help you in the short-term, or, if you can’t make up the difference for the bill in question, they won’t give you anything because they’d rather give the money to someone who can use it to get somewhere than someone who can’t.
These are ill people, and yet the system we have created to help the poor would be difficult for them to maneuver, especially when you consider they’d have had to go to most likely several agencies to get just a little help, meaning it would tie up several days. And they would also have to work out the logistics of getting there. I doubt they had money for gas, if they had a car, that is.
They should have applied for government assistance. Of course you know that there is no welfare, right? We got rid of that because our country was afraid it was leading black women to have lots of babies to get a bigger check. So instead we have cash assistance, but it’s rarely available, and most likely wouldn’t have been for these two. They did have food stamps, I’m sure not enough to feed themselves for a month, as they were eating one meal a day. And with no water to cook with, they were limited on what they could buy.
And don’t forget that in some states this couple would have to submit to a drug screen and a lecture on how they’re not allowed to buy seafood or go swimming using any funds they get from the government. After all, we don’t expect the poor to be smart enough to manage money without our interference.
They should have applied for disability. If you become disabled today, and you applied for disability today, the soonest you’d receive your first check would be almost a year later, and that’s IF, for some miraculous reason, you were approved the first time out. Most people are denied, and have to appeal the decision, so it can take years to begin receiving funds. Now they will make those funds retroactive, but money you get tomorrow won’t pay the rent or utility bills today.
The neighbors should have helped. One young neighbor was quoted as saying that if she’d known them better, she would have helped them. But we don’t know our neighbors or what their needs are. We don’t ask. And we pray they don’t tell us. If this couple had come to the door and explained their plight, how many people would have helped them? Would you?
The irony of all of this is if they had begged for money to help their cats, they probably would have fared better than they did in helping themselves. And that makes me incredibly sad.
I pray you’ve found your peace Jodi and Randy. You have certainly earned it, and God knows you weren’t going to get it from any of us.