Webster’s dictionary defines welfare as: “Aid in the form of money or necessities for those in need.” You would think that a 28 year old woman who is paralyzed from the chest down would qualify as “one in need.” But according to the myriad of MD State Agencies that distribute welfare, sadly, she does not.
When Melissa was paying her way through Towson University (Graduated with a BA in Spanish), she could never have imagined that she would be diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphomia. She was. Twice. She twice battled and beat cancer while maintaining full-time employment.
When she moved into her third floor apartment in Anne Arundel County, she never thought she would be diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis (a rare neurological disease that attacks the spinal cord.) She was left paralyzed just months after the diagnosis and she worked until the day she lost the use of her legs.
Melissa never thought that the State of Maryland would turn its back on her, but they have done just that.
Since her current apartment is privately owned, her landlord does not have to make reasonable accommodations for her disability.
“What does that mean?” you may ask.
Every single time she goes outside, she must have someone to carry her down three flights of stairs, and then when she’s ready to return, she must be carried back up three flights of stairs. In the event of a fire, she would be at tremendous risk.
So here’s where the State Government comes in. ..Melissa collects Social Security Disability (SSD) of less than $1000 per month. She is not eligible for food stamps because she doesn’t have any children and because her SSD income puts her over the limit. Her mother was forced to leave her job because Melissa is on the wait list for the “Living at home waiver” which would provide a caretaker for Melissa.
Fortunately, Melissa’s sister was able to move in to help pay her bills - temporarily. Also, her current landlord reduced the rent to try to help since the State would not. Her mom must stay home to serve as Melissa’s full-time caregiver since the State won’t help by providing one.
As a good friend, I have located an accessible apartment for Melissa; it is in a safe building and would offer Melissa true independence. Her friends and family have raised money to help pay for it, but it’s not enough. Even though the property management company has agreed to a reduced rental rate for this accessible apartment, Melissa’s limited income would not cover her monthly expenses.
“So, don’t we have a safety net to help those in need? How come the state won’t help solve this emergency housing situation?” you ask again.
According to the following agencies: MD Dept. of Aging and Disabilities, Anne Arundel Housing Authority, MD Dept. of Social Services, Annapolis, MD Mayor’s Office, MD Governor’s Office, State Representative Michael Busch’s Office and MD Congresswoman Mikulski’s Office, there is nothing that can be done because there is no way to prioritize the funds based on necessity. And even if those provisions existed, the state government claims that there are no funds available.
On Melissa’s behalf, we’re asking you to join this petition to the Maryland State Government. We are requesting that this situation be reviewed by appropriate state government officials, and that Melissa’s “living at home waiver” be granted. We also request that her eligibility for food stamps be revisited. Please note: These are not requests for new programs, just for government officials to “think outside the box” in a human, creative effort to help a woman who is truly in need. Thank you in advance for your support of my friend.
- Secretary of Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Joshua M. Sharfstein
Martin O Malley
- Maryland State House
- Maryland State Senate
- Maryland Governor
Grant the Living at Home Waiver to Melissa Smith.
Melissa has done everything right in her life. She put herself through college, got a job with health insurance, worked her way through two cancer treatments, but when she was left paralyzed by a rare neurological disease and needed the State's help for safe housing she was told there was nothing that could be done.
She is stuck in a third floor apartment which is not wheelchair accessible. Going outside for any reason requires someone to carry her down three flights of stairs and then be carried back up three flights of stairs to go back inside. I'm sure you can imagine the imminent danger this puts her in on a daily basis.
I am not asking for you to create a new state program, only grant the one that she is already on the wait list for. Granting this waiver will allow her to move into a safe home that will afford her true independence.
Julian Levin started this petition with a single signature, and now has 2,705 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.