Michigan Welfare Limit Raises Questions

By Katie Harrington
Old Town Times staff writer

The new four-year limit on families receiving welfare in Michigan has raised questions about increased crime and homelessness in Old Town. Sheila Maxwell, an Associate Professor at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice, said that since the assumption is that the people who are being taken off welfare really need assistance, there would be a lot of people in trouble.  “[The senate] didn’t want people to abuse welfare, but if these people indeed really did need assistance, they would be out on the street,” Maxwell said. “Whenever you see people removed from welfare rolls, you can expect to see an increase in crime and disorder,” said Bonnie Bucqueroux, former associate director of the National Center for Community Policing at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice.  “For a community like Old Town, my concern would be an increase in shoplifting, panhandling, prostitution and street corner drug sales.”

Lansing Police Lt. Noel Garcia said he would not speculate about possible outcomes and that the police department currently doesn’t have any strategies to deal with the issues if they do come up. “I would think police would want to get ahead of the issue rather than play catch up,” said Bucqueroux. Judy Putnam, the communications director for the Michigan League for Human Services, said there is no concern for increased homelessness and crime in the Lansing area.  “I don’t think we should assume that because people are low income they are criminals,” Putnam said.  “And we have to remember that Ingham County is not going to be affected as much as other counties because there are only 70 cases of people losing their assistance here.”

In fact, Ingham County is ranked number 12 on the list of most families being affected by the measure.  Wayne County is number one with 6,560 families affected.