This internship has challenged what I think of “common sense.” Working with grants that have various donor restrictions and constant changes to these restrictions, it’s a wonder that anything actually gets done. You would think that if a person truly has a need, then this person should be helped. But this is not always the case.
Take, for example, a senior citizen who is trying to get a forgivable loan to repair her house. She is a longtime resident of the Gulf Coast and lived through Hurricane Katrina. Her house was severely damaged at the time, but the money she initially received from the government she used to buy proper medication and repaired part of her home, but not all. Now she is trying to complete well-needed repairs and the money is there. She gets qualified into a program with IRD but the donor’s guidelines change midway through and she’s no longer eligible. Since she did not spend all of her initial recovery money on fixing her house, she isn’t eligible.
It seems that common sense says, “of course the woman should be assisted; she has serious needs and they should be met.” But unfortunately, the rules of common sense get changed and are defined by the donor, not the local organization that is trying to help people receive the assistance they need.
Now, understand, this person will likely receive help, whether it’s by transferring her to a different program or perhaps by an appeal to the donor for special circumstances. But either way, it is more time spent in poor living conditions and more cost to IRD and the donor. This is a common situation for case managers and much of their time is spent working through these issues. IRD desires to help people, but that process is not always easy. Donors have sincere concerns about abuse of funds, and though this is a real concern, it can also handicap relief organizations from providing the quickest, most efficient help.
In the end though, IRD is here to help people and this is what it will do. It must deal with certain donors and adjust programs based both on the needs of the people and the guidelines of the donors. “Common sense” becomes whatever it takes to help provide for people’s needs and make them self-sustainable. But the reality is that this is not always easy…even when the money is there.