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Poverty In Our Area: Tyranny Of The Moment

Poverty In Our Area: Tyranny of the moment
Posted May 25, 2022 12:33 PM
By Patricia Jones, Alliance Poverty Task Force

Poverty is a lack of resources. People in poverty are often in survival mode, driven by the tyranny of the moment, where they cannot plan for the future. Their problems are often crises that must be dealt with today.

People in poverty are forced to decide which is their most immediate problem: Do they pay rent or their utility bill? Do they pay for medicine or groceries? What can they let slide for another week or month?

It is especially difficult for those with a chronic illness. How do they maintain a place to live, get to appointments, and afford medications and treatments? Can they even hold down a job?

Think about what it means to rent. Many places require a two-month security deposit, along with the first month’s rent. (And really, do they ever give the whole deposit back?) Utility companies also want a deposit. Where you can rent may depend on your transportation needs. And rent has been skyrocketing across America in the last two years. What is the alternative? Extended stay motel? Friend’s sofa? Car? Homelessness?

The support systems those of us in the middle class take for granted are often non-existent for those in poverty. Yes, the taxes we pay offer many of the services needed by those in poverty.

But those services challenge people in poverty by throwing up barriers at every turn. How does a single parent get to work at a minimum wage job without transportation or dependable child care? Can they get any benefits if businesses are only hiring for part-time openings? Do they need to get two or three jobs to pay bills? How can they take off work to go to parent-teacher conferences, or visit food pantries, or sign up for assistance that requires using a computer, or visit an office that is only open during normal working hours? The system is not easy to navigate!

Poverty is at the heart of poor health, unaffordable housing, transportation challenges, homelessness, low-wage jobs, poor nutrition and hunger, lack of education, and unaffordable child care.

People are often thrown into situational poverty by circumstances. How many of us wouldn’t have a major financial setback if something truly bad happened to us? Something like a job loss, a serious illness (theirs or someone in their family), divorce, death, accident, or a catastrophe destroying their home. A January survey by Bankrate found that 56% of Americans had not saved enough money to cover a $1,000 emergency expense. How long could we last before our credit cards were maxed out, utilities were cut off, we were evicted, or our home was foreclosed?

Those in situational poverty hopefully have the skills needed to work themselves out of the hole. They often have support systems of family and friends. They can figure out how to navigate the system and get the help they need.

More discouraging are the problems faced by those in generational poverty. These are families who have experienced poverty for two generations or longer. They feel like they have no choices and no power. Not only do they lack money, they don’t have education and connections that people in other classes rely on. They don’t have the resources to pack up and move to an area with better opportunities. These families are trapped in a cycle of poverty unless there is outside intervention.

How does a family get out of the downward spiral?

These questions and problems are the reason the Alliance Poverty Task Force was formed. Alliance, and all of rural America, isn’t as prosperous as it was forty or fifty years ago. This is the reason we are bringing Bridges Out of Poverty programs to our area.

Through Bridges Out of Poverty, we hope to learn how to affect real change. We want to create public and private partnerships with our agencies and organizations, to collaborate to find solutions.

Bridges: Community Lens will be held in the Alliance High School commons area on Thursday, June 9, 9:00-3:00. Register at panhandlepartnership.com/events. The $45 registration fee includes refreshments and lunch. If you are requesting a scholarship or paying for a group of people, please email connor.wilburn@panhandlepartnership.com and ask Connor to handle your registration.

Please join us as we work to apply this research in our area, to learn to help those facing the tyranny of the moment.