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Golden Triangle Tarnished for Beaumont. Area Poor By Betty Brink Sylvania Brown is black, old \(70 or so, row, three-room, shot-gun house a stone’s throw away from the constant drone and the exhaust fumes of Interstate 10, the highway which feeds coastal Texas like a giant umbilical cord and neatly cuts in half l3eaumont’s oldest black ghetto. Her sagging front porch, where she is sitting this day because of the heat, is covered with coffee cans and clay pots filled with ferns and ivy. Her yard is green and neatly cut, thanks to a grandson. Her stomach is always “a little bit hungry.” Her children, a son and daughter, do what they can, but they too are poor. She could just as easily be a million miles from the elegant suburbs of Beaumont’s West End, where Corporate America’s contributions to this city’s growing wealth are most visible. Sylvania Brown’s “wealth” has been reduced. The government letter says that she will receive a small cost-of-living raise on her next Supplemental Security to $240. But, the letter cautions, “if you are also receiving food or medical assistance . . . those benefits may be reduced because your increased SSI income must be considered. . . .” What that means for Sylvania Brown, is that her food stamp allowance of $52 a month was to be cut to $46 a direct loss in her “cost-of-living raise” of $6 a month. A considerable amount to someone living on less than $3000 a year and who has no place to turn. Mrs. Brown has been struggling to get by “on her own” most of her adult life. Her husband left when the children “was crawlin’ and never did help.” In the 40’s Betty Brink is a free-lance writer living in Kountze. Her work has appeared in Southern Exposure and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. as . a WPA worker “sewing government clothes,” she lost her left eye in an industrial accident. It was the only good job she ever had. After being badly bitten by a dog on her way home from work at Beaumont’s old Hotel Dieu, suffering a leg injury what would leave her crippled for the rest of her life, she took various day jobs until she finally qualified for the SSI payments she now receives. \(She doesn’t qualify for Social Security, since most of her working life was spent in other women’s homes women who did not, in those days, pay FICA taxes on Today she pays $75 a month to a well-known Beaumont slumlord \(who to make any repairs on the sagging old shack she lives in; her gas bills average $9 a month; electricity, $18; water, $18; phone, $8. \(All of the utilities have received substantial rate increases since I month for an old, second-hand refrigerator and a few dollars on an insurance policy. That leaves her with less than $125 a month about $4 a day including her food stamps, to buy food, medicine and clothes. Her allotment for medicine for her diabetes and heart trouble always runs out, she says, before the end of the month and she is faced with a devastating choice: buying medicine or buying food. A diabetic cannot juggle those two needs for very long. What will happen, I asked her, if there are any more cuts in the food stamp program? “We gonna starve,” she said. Then she added, “If they cuts the Medicare, we gonna die.” On October 1, she was told that her food stamp allotment would be cut once again; not due to any token cost-of-living adjustment but due, of course, to the Reagan-Stockman budget axe. An axe which also made deep cuts in the Medicare program. Sylvania Brown’s safety net is suddenly full of more holes than she can ever mend. She will fall through. And who will catch her, and the thousands like her, in this booming Golden Triangle, whose local United Way’s slogan for years was “We take care of our own”? Here at the northern tip of the Texas Gulf Coast, a triangle of prosperous Texas towns Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, each about 20 miles apart are literally strung together by row upon industrial row of chemical plants, refineries, shipyards and their support systems. Industries like Mobil, Texaco, Gulf, DuPont, Goodyear, et al., have caused the region to boom more than once since World War II when people first began to flow in. They have also contributed to the region’s dubious honor of having lung cancer, leukemia and infant mortality rates considerably higher than the state or national averages. The Chambers of Commerce will not tell you that, but they will tell you this is one of the fastest-growing areas of the country and one of the highest paid. It’s true. Employment has stayed high, workers get top wages, and, unlike most of Texas, labor unions are solidly entrenched. Even the nurses at Beaumont’s largest hospital are organized the first, and so far only, Texas healthcare group to vote for union representation. Yet in Orange, Jefferson and Hardin counties, which provide the bulk of the work force to the industries here, with a combined population of between 300,000 and 400,000, there are an average of 30,000 food stamp recipients. Or were, until October 1. Poverty, a fact left out of the promotional pamphlets, is also high. And, as has always been the case in East Texas, .,,,Mitewavat ……V:;:40..T.ww.:gis.:01141anammess mons 4 NOVEMBER 20, 1981