Everybody runs into difficult patches in life where welfare assistance may be needed; in truth, most Americans today are one lost paycheck away from being without food to eat, a home to live in, or in danger of losing their means of transportation because of the current economy and even natural disasters. When bad things happen to good people, there are government welfare programs are available at every level to help them until times get better. Welfare eligibility is open to every US citizens because it is a right given to all of us.
The government welfare system is there to help, as evidenced in this quote from the Missouri state constitution: "all constitutional government is intended to promote the general welfare of the people; that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness...all persons are created equal and are entitled to equal rights and opportunity under the law; that to give security to these things is the principal office of government, and that when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design." In other words, when the government welfare system does not help you, it fails at its primary purpose, to ensure people are treated equally and given the opportunities to have lives worth living. Government welfare programs exist for the purpose of serving those in need, and utilizing them fully is vital if you are in need of help.
At the first level is local city government welfare assistance. There are programs available that can either help you directly, or refer you to other sorts of welfare assistance. Most city governments have provisions for emergency welfare assistance with utilities, food, and other necessities. Look in the City Government section of the phone book under Emergency Assistance and make sure to call and ask what programs might be available for you. It might surprise you to learn that many programs exist and do not require any form of welfare eligibility requirements like qualifying-income or number of residents in the home dependent.
There are welfare assistance programs in which you only have to ask to receive welfare eligibility. If the programs that your city has are dependent on a certain income level or a certain number of people be living in your home, there is sure to be a referral program, where the city can refer you to local charities and churches that will help with everything from buying medicines to gasoline vouchers to two weeks worth of food.
Make sure to ask for a printed list of these resources, and before you pursue them, make sure you have everything they might ask you for, such as: picture id, proof of residency, social security numbers of all residents of the home, proof of income, and most importantly a list of what it is you need. You would be surprised how many assistance programs ask you right up front, what is it you NEED, and then work very hard to provide it for you, or help you locate it elsewhere. One local charity I am aware of asks it's clients to make a shopping list when they come in, then depending on what it is that you need, a volunteer counselor goes to work on getting you the groceries you need, or the help with your light bill.
Above and beyond local resources are the government welfare programs that the states provide with welfare assistance from food stamps, AFDC, TANF, and other such programs. At the state level, they function much the same, and are almost entirely dependent on your income. Again, gather your documentation before you head down to the local state aid office. You will need to have proof of identity for yourself, and be able to document the presence of all the dependents for whom you want assistance. Most such programs today take the form of a reloadable shopping card onto which payments are loaded each month. You will have to be certain to keep all appointments with the agency from whom you receive assistance, and be certain to comply with any and all directives they give you, as well as make certain you have a safe address at which you can receive correspondence from then.
There are welfare assistance programs to help anyone who needs it, if people just go looking for them, and do everything required to get them. Remember too, that there are many resources available at your local library; the librarians there can direct you to all the resources you could ever need to learn more about government welfare assistance.