Removing hurdles for individuals’ success


August 30, 2019 8:33AM

As Beacon starts to take a closer look at potential improvements to the welfare system in Tennessee, CEO Justin Owen has a closer connection with the issue than you might be aware. Justin spent most of his formative years living with his mother and his grandparents. He was unaware at the time that his mom helped provide for their family by taking advantage of WIC, the supplemental food program through the U.S. government. 

When asked about how his early childhood years shaped the work he does today, Justin says, “Some of our welfare programs now punish individuals for working more hours. If my mother was punished for taking on more work to provide for us, she could’ve gotten trapped in that system for a lot longer.”

All too often, we see individuals who lean more toward the right of the political spectrum villainize people who are on government assistance, assume they are lazy and refuse to support them. In reality, the issue is far more complex than that. Welfare is a system that should be designed to help people get off of it. “Every now and then, people need some help. I think we have to be careful not to create a spiderweb with welfare and make sure it truly is a safety net as needed, and only needed for a certain amount of time. And not punish people for trying to climb out of it.”

At the Beacon Center, we have talked to so many inspiring individuals who just want the best for their family but unfortunately, have been slowed by government hurdles standing in their way. That’s where we come in. “The vast majority of people on welfare don’t want to be on it,” Justin says. “And we just need to make sure there is a viable path off. That’s why we work on getting hurdles out of the way so people have the opportunity to climb the economic ladder and not get trapped in the system.”