- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Angela Woods used to sell her children's Pampers on D.C. streets to support her heroin habit.
Rachell Brown was convinced that "nothing was wrong with me," even though she spent $500 a week on marijuana.
Pastor Shirley Holloway's House of Help-City of Hope program in Southwest Washington helped them turn their lives around, the two women said yesterday at an event at the Heritage Foundation.
The women have also married, even though that didn't seem likely a few years ago Mrs. Woods' husband, James, was a notorious womanizer and drug dealer when he came to House of Hope; Mrs. Brown's husband, Nathaniel, was a crackhead who lived in his car.
The faith-based House of Help program taught the four adults how to reorient themselves, how to love themselves and how to have a healthy romantic relationship, they each said.
"We've learned to consider each other's feelings," said Mr. Brown, who celebrates his first wedding anniversary next month.
"He loves me in a way that I've never been loved before," Mrs. Woods said, as her husband smiled at her.
These are the kind of testimonies that inspire the Bush administration and some members of Congress to find ways to revive marriage in low-income communities.
A welfare bill before the House Ways and Means subcommittee on human resources would give $100 million a year in competitive grants to states for campaigns and programs that promote marriage and relationship skills. States could get another $100 million matched by $100 million in state funds for marriage-demonstration projects.
Subcommittee members are likely to discuss all these proposals when they write the legislation tomorrow.
Pro-marriage programs especially if they address personal character and values are very important to reclaiming lives, author and community activist Robert L. Woodson Sr. told yesterday's Heritage event.
Government played a major part in eroding the institution of marriage through its anti-poverty programs, so "it has a perfect right to play a part in trying to strengthen it again," said Mr. Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.
Others say the American people don't want government promotion of marriage.
According to a poll released Monday of 801 voters, 53 percent opposed "increasing funds for programs that encourage low-income parents to get married." Instead, "the great majority [of people] support welfare policies that expand education and training opportunities," said Deepak Bhargava of the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support.
A similar rejection of government-funded marriage programs was reported last month in a joint study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, and Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The groups asked 100 people if the government "should start up programs that encourage people to get and stay married or should the government stay out of this?" Seventy-nine persons said, "Stay out of it."
Congress should listen to the people and realize that promoting marriage "is a hare-brained scheme as a poverty-reduction strategy," Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, said at a recent welfare briefing.
She was echoed by Martha F. Davis, vice president of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, who told the House human resources panel last week that promoting marriage intrudes on poor women's "most private decisions."
A major study to be released next week by the Council on Contemporary Families will say that government efforts to make marriage a "centerpiece of anti-poverty policy" are misguided. Encouraging people to marry when they don't have long-term personal support systems may do more harm than good, said researchers Stephanie Coontz and Nancy Folbre.

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