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Meet Renee: A 47 Percenter Whose Life Was Turned Around By Programs Romney Denigrated

By Travis Waldron on September 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm

"Meet Renee: A 47 Percenter Whose Life Was Turned Around By Programs Romney Denigrated"

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Nuns On A Bus rally against budget cuts in Manhattan

Renee Fleming is a mother and grandmother who has spent most of her 54 years living on the streets of Brooklyn, except when she’s been in prison. But the last time she went in, she found a helping hand from Providence House, a New York-based charity that visits women in prison and helps re-unite them with their children, find them housing, and secure a job when they get out.

It was Providence House, Renee told ThinkProgress through tears, that saved her life. She has spent the last six months living at the home and has a job as a telemarketer in Brooklyn. Renee is also one of Mitt Romney’s 47 percent — she depends on government benefits like welfare and the Housing Rehabilitation Program, which provides the assistance that helps her stay at the Providence House.

“This is the first time in my life that I’ve ever felt so serene, because of the nuns, because of our sisters,” Fleming said. “At 54 years old, I’m finally free. I can do it, through Providence House.” Watch Renee tell her story:

To Romney, that may make Fleming someone who he’ll “never convince” to take “personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Through tears, though, Fleming told ThinkProgress that she “takes full responsibility” for her past mistakes, and that Romney’s comments have her worried about this election — she plans to vote in November for the first time in her life — because the budget cuts pushed by Romney and running mate Paul Ryan could jeopardize the types of programs that made her “truly free.”

“I’m really afraid. I’m so scared,” Fleming said about potential budget cuts, which one official from Providence House said could jeopardize the programs, like food stamps and housing assistance, on which Fleming and other residents depend. “I’ve just got so much hope, and I’m afraid at the same time.”

Providence House receives a modest amount of federal money through grants, according to Sister Janet Kinney, Providence House’s executive director. The women it helps, given their circumstances, are largely dependent on government aid for food, housing, and health care. And while the national rate of women who return to prison is nearly 40 percent, the recidivism rate for Providence House residents is just five percent, Kinney said during a speech at the Nuns On A Bus rally in New York yesterday.

Programs like Providence House’s have risen to prominence during the Nuns On A Bus tour, which has highlighted religiously-affiliated poverty programs that would be jeopardized by the cuts contained in the House GOP budget, which Ryan authored and Romney supports. The majority of those cuts come from programs that help the poor and middle class — people like Renee Fleming, who has a job, a place to live, and a chance to make life better for her and her family for the first time in her life.

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