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Soup kitchen’ makes a statement to Gov. Snyder

Lansing State Journal, 7/14/11

By: Scott Davis
July 14, 2011
Lansing State Journal

George Gray sells his blood every week so he can afford a bus pass or buy shaving cream.

Unemployed and homeless for two years, the 57-year-old also is no stranger to soup kitchens.

So, when the Michigan Nurses Association opened a temporary "soup kitchen" Wednesday on the Capitol lawn in downtown Lansing, Gray was happy to accept a chicken salad sandwich and chocolate cookie and sit down for a satisfying meal.

"I'm just grasping at straws, trying to get employment going," said Gray, who moved into a Lansing shelter after losing his job as home health aide. "I go to Michigan Works every day. I apply and apply and apply, and I don't get a response back."

The Michigan Nurses Association, with support from state worker and teachers unions, hosted the temporary soup kitchen to highlight what they see as the impact of school aid and social service cuts in a budget recently passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Jeff Breslin, president of the Michigan Nurses Association, said state funding cuts to help pay for a $1.8 billion business tax break will lead to rising layoffs of public sector employees. That, he said, will lead to higher numbers of soup kitchens one day in Michigan.

"You've got people now living at the edge who will not be able to pay the bills," Breslin said. "With the direction of the administration, this is the direction the state is headed."

Snyder has said the $1.8 billion tax break is critical to revitalizing the state's economy and creating new jobs.

The theme of the event, "Governor Snyder's 'No Soup for You,' " was a takeoff on the popular "Seinfeld" TV episode in which a character angers a "soup Nazi" who runs a soup eatery and is banned from the establishment. The soup kitchen Wednesday served egg salad, chicken salad and chicken noodle soup to dozens of homeless people.

Jen Shaw, a speech therapist for the Lansing School District, said she fears state cuts will result in the loss of her own job and one day jeopardize food assistance for low- income students.

"It's getting more difficult to live in Michigan," Shaw said.

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