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The American Poor


Homelessness and poverty

I live in a small town in a bible belt state. A few days ago on Facebook, there was a thread on one of the local pages about our small city making a homeless shelter. Of course there were a few for it but many against it.

In this small city I live in, jobs can pay anywhere from minimum wage to $12 an hour depending on whether it's fast food, Wal-Mart, factory job, or though a temp agency. Rent here can be anywhere from $450 to well over a $1000 a month depending on size. I was working 40 to 50 hours a week for $10 an hour. During this time I was a single mother of three school aged children. I would bring home from work a little over $400 a week after taxes. I had to use two paychecks just to pay rent of $550 on a three bedroom mobile home. I also had my utilities to pay and my electric was anywhere from $250 to over $300 a month depending on the season. That never left me with much money to take my children out and have family fun day or anything. If I wanted anything extra like that, I would have to find a second job, work about 80 hours a week and never see my children. It wasn't going to happen. Just because I was working 40 to 50 hours a week at $10 an hour I didn't qualify for government assistance. I had to buy food as well. I was barely left with enough to even buy fuel, etc. If there ever came an emergency, I was out of luck if it required money.

Of course your probably wondering why not go to college and further your education, get a degree and a better job. I do have a degree and well over $50,000 in student debt! Now you might be asking why not move? Well, I don't have the money to move. Everything I make goes to rent, utilities, food and fuel/car maintenance and car payment.

I read an article not too long ago stating that the working poor, or lower income bracket, are just one loss of check away from being homeless. That is true. Here where I live, we have the most horrible of tenant laws in the country. Landlords can evict you and you'd have to be out in either 3, 10 or 30 days depending on them. Three days isn't a long time for anyone with three children to move and when you have no family, we'd be out on the street.

Back to what I was talking earlier...

As I said, on Facebook there were some for a shelter but many against. Those against said that it would bring drugs and crime to the area. Unfortunately those things are already here whether they like them or not. They also spoke about how it's the persons fault for being homeless because they let drugs ruin their life. They apparently can't comprehend that homeless aren't homeless due to only drugs. There are many reasons for a person to become homeless. Job loss, getting sick and not having money coming in because of it (takes at least 3 months for disability to make a determination on a case and even then it's usually denied), getting out of an abusive relationship, natural disaster, and the list goes on.

I looked at my states homeless statistics. It says that there are over 13,000 homeless in this state. There are only 75 counties here and if you divide the two, it makes at least 170 per county. Not every county will have homeless people. In this small city I live in, there are around 13,000 people that live here. From what I've been told from others around here, there are about 2,000 homeless people here. I know that the agencies around here that help with the homeless run out of funding before the months end. There are at least 50 churches here and most of them do no type of community outreach. I was told that if you need help, check out the smaller churches because they are the ones who help more. The sad thing is, many of those against the shelter claim to be christian, go to church and believe in Jesus and God.

There were also comments on the thread about many of them having mental problems. Fact is, everyone has at least one mental issue during their lifetime. One woman even posted a comment to put an electric fence and make it a mental facility. Prisons don't even have electric fences cause it's considered inhumane. I shook my head in shame at the comment. Mentally ill patients come in all shapes and sizes. They would rather electrocute them than even be around them more or less.

Sometimes I think it's the education or lack of education these people received growing up that is the cause of their outlandish comments but I received the same education from the same schools that most of them went to. I have to ask myself, why do they think the way they do? I know most of them believe that social programs are bad and that it'll impede them in some way if they stay implemented or become implemented. I live in a red state, controlled by republicans. There are constant cuts to social programs here. Many people have lost their medicaid because they weren't informed of the new law that went into effect not too long ago. Many here are against medical marijuana because it's considered a drug but many here are also drug addicts addicted to pain killers and meth. They would rather hinder those in need than give them a hand up...which they consider and hand out. There was even one man who said that his church closed their pantry because they saw the same people coming in month after month to get food. Many in this area are on a fixed income, don't get enough in SNAP benefits and have to look for extra help from the pantries in the area every month just so they don't starve. I know this because when my mother was alive she received a little over $700 in disability and SSI benefits total and she had to reach out for food so she didn't starve. It's truly sad the way people think here and all over the country in regard to those less fortunate. I truly have to ask when did churches start preaching that helping those less fortunate is wrong? Why don't churches do community out reach programs anymore? Do they really think people are taking advantage or do they just not understand the persons situation and/or possibly doesn't care? I just hope none of those who were bashing those less fortunate ever find themselves in that type of situation.

I hold my head in shame at my fellow hometown citizens and many others in this country. The compassion we once had for one another has all but left most. Who are we to blame for it? How can we help those who find themselves in situations that has left them homeless or poverty stricken? I know the government has a lot to do with it, but how do we open the eyes of those who look down upon others? Is there any hope left?

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