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If It Works

Connie Chavez
Punchin In At Last: Connie Chavez took advantage of the federal program called Greater Awareness of Independence (GAIN) to get off welfare. Her first day on the job came days before the state finally passed reform legislation.

Photo by Christopher Gardner

Most people figure they already know the whole story about welfare reform. The debate, after all, has been around for 20 years. The folks receiving aid are either lazy opportunists (the conservative view) or helpless victims (so say the liberals). Politicians who yap about reform are bleeding-hearts or greed-heads--again, depending on the foregone conclusion. And the welfare system is administered, as everybody knows, by bureaucrats who couldn't care less.

But when Metro's team of reporters and photographers set to work on this special report, they found lawmakers on both sides of the divide who were sick of fighting to a standstill. They found agency leaders who were excited about the challenge of helping people in new ways. And they heard personal stories with more depth and complexity than clichèd images of welfare moms or Food Stamp recipients would allow. Their reports follow.

Get a Job: California's new welfare reform law was born out of rancorous politics, but is being celebrated by both sides now.

Cultural Revolution: Why Santa Clara County didn't wait for the Legislature to tell it how to reinvent itself.

Deal Them Out: In three weeks, 20,000 legal immigrants countywide will lose their food stamps.

Back to Work: A reluctant welfare mom experiences the joys of employment--a photo essay.

Welfare as They Know It: A reluctant welfare mom, a lifelong welfare recipient and a welfare adult without kids share their view from inside the System.

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From the July 31-Aug. 6, 1997 issue of Metro.

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