What Is It Like?


Most middle class folks don’t really understand what it is to be locked into poverty by a confluence of factors. Those factors can include such things as lack of job skills; age, disability, race, sex, or other discrimination; limited educational credentials; big gaps in employment (whether justifiable or not); lack of employment that actually pays a living wage; mental illness; and lack of opportunity.


Most middle class (and above) folks may be familiar with not having enough money to do certain things, or they may be in debt due to medical bills, job loss, economic downturns, or other reason, but they often have resources and options that the “poor” do not. You lose a job, get another one. Most have job skills that are in demand. Most have insurance to soften the brunt of medical bills. Many have relatives with money to help them out of a bind. Many have networks of people to help them get back on their feet. Most middle-class (and above) folks can take a “life punch” and still be able to get back up and keep “fighting.” That is, when they “fall” there is usually some way to pick themselves back up and keep going.


Poor people don’t have those options. No network of friends (at least, none with money); no savings; no ability to get loans; most can’t get a job, let alone a second one. Doors have closed that just won’t open again (unless something ‘miraculous’ happens). Most grew up poor and were not exposed to life from the position of being in a solid middle-class environment. Survival is the primary focus, rather than education and growth and being able to engage in a wide variety of life experiences. Instead, most are confined to a limited environment where most of their neighbors and associations are with other poor folks.


Imagine being in this position: You are physically disabled: not confined to a wheelchair, but you have trouble walking or standing longer than ten minutes. You are in constant, chronic pain that varies from “tolerable” to “debilitating.” You are intelligent, literate and personable. And while you have job skills that would make you a good candidate as a new hire — you only have an Associate degree when most positions in your field require at least a Bachelor degree. Even though you’re pretty good at what you do, no one will accept your word for it because you lack a B.A./B.S. or industry credentials, an who is going to hire someone without the “right papers.” Because of your health, your age (over 55), not having worked for several years (so your employment continuity is “unfavorable”), high competitiveness for ANY job in your area, no friends in the field, no network of people to tap into for help, limited prospects in any case …

You should have a pretty good idea by now where this is going.

If you were in this position, giving it serious thought … what would you do? Seriously, I’d like to know your thoughts.


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