Personal poverty stories
I’ve spent the day reading personal stories of poverty. Maybe I should have done this at the beginning of this month, but I feel like I understand them more now. Women whose fridges look like mine right now – a few condiments and not much else. Men who have important things to say but are overlooked because they have lost their legs, can’t afford an apartment and therefore panhandle on the street to try and hopefully save enough to pay for rent. Mothers who lose their babies because they water down the milk or formula because they can’t afford to feed their children properly.
The food coming from food banks is not very healthy. Rent subsidies are not high enough to afford decent, safe housing. Rent-to-own companies are preying on the poor, and cheating them out of money in the long term. Trading sex for accommodation is not uncommon. These are stories of depression, hopelessness, coping, and what to do to change this.
Here are some quotes from some of the stories I read and below, where to read the full reports/articles:
“The furniture and all that stuff is my past life… left over from the gravy days… a lot of women march into poverty with the goods they had before.”
“Never having enough money or enough of anything to meet basic needs has taken a toll on my health, on my self-esteem and on my idea of who I am and where I fit in this world. Living close to the edge of disaster on a daily basis eats away at your soul and destroys you from the inside out.”
“The two nights that it snowed she slept in a port-a-potty, to get out of the snow and wind. She joked and said it wasn’t bad because at least she had a bathroom but no light to read her book. She tried sitting at a bus stop under a streetlight to read but was told by police that she had to move because the bench wasn’t her living room.”
“She had always assumed that homeless people were on the street because they wanted to be there, that she never dreamed that it could happen to her or just how fast someone could find themselves homeless.”
“…an apartment where cleanliness means a sponge bath in the kitchen sink or a walk to the nearest pool house, and the toilet – shared with neighbors – is in a small closet in the hall.”
“In a typical day, he said, he would send out 10 resumes and make 10 calls. But the months went by and nothing happened. ‘This is the first time I’m out of a job since I was 8, when I had a paper route,’ he said. ‘I kept thinking the economy would get better, and it just hasn’t.'”
“Circumstances put people where they are…You’re living in a cockroach-infested, one-room place that is not as big as half of the room we are sitting in now, about the size of a jail cell. And you are supposed to live twelve months of the year like this? And not go out and beat each other up? And rob each other? And go and steal, and do this and do that? Because what else have you got, what else have you got to lose?”
“It is not our fault. We don’t want to be doing this. We didn’t choose this. We didn’t say OK I’m going to be homeless today. And have nothing to eat and no place to go.”
Read more at:
Women’s Perspective on Poverty: photos and stories by women on low-income in Calgary, http://www.ucalgary.ca/gender/WAFI%20Report2.pdf, (Quotes 1-4)
Poverty Stories. A blog by David Schwab Abel, reporter for the Boston Globe and adjunct professor of journalism at Boston University and Emerson College. http://davidabel3.blogspot.com/ (Quotes 5-6)
Voices: Women, Poverty and Homelessness in Canada. Rusty Neal. Report of the National Poverty Association, May 2004. http://intraspec.ca/WomenPovertyAndHomelessnessInCanada.pdf (Quotes 7-8)