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feated in his anti-VISTA campaign. The General Accounting Office audited the group and discovered most of the funds appropriated for 1982 hadn’t been spent. ACTION was ordered to spend the money. A letter from Homer, sent to all VISTAs in mid-July, said the program would likely be phased out by September, and the VISTAs should prepare for the eventuality. Congress, however, had already tentatively voted to keep VISTA alive, and some ACTION workers suggest the letter was a “scare tactic” designed to discourage VISTAs from completing their terms. It didn’t work. The terms of all VISTAs in the field end in April of next year, though Congress may authorize more money for the program. That means there will be money and no workers, just the opposite of Nancy Cunningham’s earlier fear: workers and no money. None of the political problems in faraway Washington were entirely clear to Cunningham; she was only concerned with their local reverberations. Working all summer to set up a program, only to see it killed two weeks after it started, wasn’t her idea of a summer well spent. Now that things are somewhat settled, though, the mood is calmer. Cunningham finds charges that VISTA is a bunch of leftists funny, considering one of her VISTAs is a 72-year old grandmother. Their warehouse is in an industrial office/storage complex in South Dallas, where days are spent tracking inventories and processing paper basic administrative chores and hardly the seeds of revolution. The North Texas Food Bank has 60 member charities. All major food chains except Minyards are participating. Food began going out Sept. 14, and the recipients were happy. “They walk out with grins from earto-ear,” Cunningham said recently. “They say, ‘My God, how this is going to help our program’.” And that, to her, is the main thing. Still, she’s sad about what appears to be VISTA’s eventual demise. “We made it,” she said, “but the whole damn program isn’t making it. The country is losing.” 0 “In Laredo, some people who were making it marginally before just “aren’t anymore.” from?’ ” As a result, food stamp fraud by the undocumented is not too common less than 1% in Laredo, according to a recent study by the DHR. A new law has just gone into effect here, requiring caseworkers to report to immigration authorities any illegal aliens they encounter. The Food Stamp worker is not supposed to provide stamps if a family member is indicated as “ineligible,” but how many people coming for hunger relief know this? FOR PEOPLE who don’t qualify for food stamps, who might qualify but have to wait, who have illegal family members who managed to avoid being turned in but are still hungry, Laredo offers few alternatives. Some churches and social service agencies in Laredo try to help people regardless of their legal status or other circumstances. The Centro Aztlan, for example. is an inconspicuous office that does a brisk business assisting people with their food stamp forms. The forms are in English and Spanish, but many of the people who bring them in can’t read or write. The Centro can try to expedite an emergency case or locate food for a desperate family. Most of the people they serve are migrant workers, the elderly, or disabled. Recently a gaunt, middle-aged widow came to the Centro for help. Her case was typical. She was a migrant worker returning home penniless from the crop disasters in West Texas; she had gone to the DHR and been given an appointment thirty days later; until then, she had no income and no food for herself, her two daughters, and five grandchildren. The Centro’s director, Albert Luera,, took her case. Luera spent the morning on the phone to the welfare office, doing what he could to speed up her case. Frustrated, he gave her seventy-five dollars from the Centro’s business account. There is always the Salvation Army. Their new Laredo office has seen a 30% increase in the number of people coming for food since the devaluation. The Salvation Army requires proof that a person has been to the DHR; then they will give that person a meal or a voucher to buy some groceries. “Of course, there’s no way a group like ours can feed a family for 30 days,” said the director. Lt. William Thrasher. “If we see people coming in day after day. we have to look for other alternatives.” Lt. Thrasher believes that, in a country with enough food to feed the world, there should be no hungry people. “I may be mistaken,” he says, “but as far as suffering the real pain of hunger, of not eating for days or weeks, there shouldn’t be any of that. If people are, then it’s because of mental problems, or because they lack the motivation, language, or learning to understand the community structure. We find some, particularly aliens, who don’t know where to go. Or we find elderly people who grew up in a spirit of independence, and pride gets in their way. You hear about people eating dog food: there’s just no need for that. They may think it’s not right to accept charity, that they can provide for themselves. Pride or no, it’s becoming increasingly clear that hunger in Laredo is not just confined to a few old people, or people with mental problems. or people without papers. Serious gaps exist in the mechanisms of hunger relief. A couple of the local churches prepare bags of food for needy families; thirtyfour such families came in one week to the Methodists. But the resources of these churches and the Centro are limited. “The time lag between when families apply for stamps and when they get them makes a food pantry necessary, said Luera. He, church leaders, and a few concerned citizens have begun the process of organizing a community pantry. But it will take time. Until then, caring for the hungry of Laredo is a relatively haphazard, individual effort. It requires initiative and aggressiveness by the hungry people themselves. Those who are too old, too sick, too alone, or too uninformed are falling through the cracks in the social system. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9