The often-avoided story of poverty in the United States has birthed an alarming number of homeless people and it might be time to acknowledge it. When people in developed countries and advanced economies speak of poverty, they often conjure images of people in faraway lands who have no idea what civilization is like and do not have community representatives that advocate for them.
Very few times will people look with in their own circles to identify signs of poverty that have been staring them in the face. Compound that with the American dream. Because we truly want to believe that anyone with the will to live a decent life can achieve it in America, we miss the cracks that can swallow up even the most well-intentioned person.
In countries like ours, people go months without nutritional meals, they skip a few meals a week in order to stretch the time between the grocery run, and make too little relative to the cost of living. That might not look like the traditional definition of living under a dollar a day, but the precarity of work and inflation means that many people cannot make payments on the things that matter in life.
There is a sense of shame that comes with admitting that people in our country can be poor. It is a direct juxtaposition to the commercial values we hold dear and believe to make our country great. But the less we use the right language, the lax we become about the right interventions that will feed people, educate them, and help them keep a roof over their heads. As opposed to pointing fingers at people, we can advocate for better connected cities that are friendly to growing people and communities.
In place of ridiculing people, we can advocate against the practice of denying affordable housing around urban areas. The problem of poverty, when unaddressed, can be generational and unfortunately an unresolved poverty problem costs communities more as the generations grow. Think of the children who grow up in poverty. Their needs are often unmet and the gaps in development can cost them as they grow up.
You can read more on the link between homelessness and poverty here:
Well, the form and conditions of employment is a great place to start. Minimum wage was one battle, but for people earning around those margins, work has now become part time. Employers have fewer financial obligations to employees that way and are able to treat a long-term employee in the same way that a high school student would be as they work through their summer break. Additionally, homeless people realize how many hoops one must go through to be legally homeless in this country.
Any efforts to decriminalize people who can declare themselves officially homeless can go a long way. There is a need for our institutions to make more breathing room for individuals who are making efforts to build back their lives, get the help they need, and rewrite the story of their lives.
We could embrace more financial tools for people to build or rebuild their financial profiles. Innovations such as short term rental assistance, multi-source financial history, and even insurance packages on the lower end of savings can make a difference in giving people assurances that a shock to the economy will not wipe them out and leave them on the streets.
We can also advocate for local food corridors that present fresh and affordable food options to local communities, whether it is cosmetically pleasing or not.
When the body is powered the right way, people are able to show up for their responsibilities with present minds and more confidence. For children experiencing poverty, we can intervene from an early stage. Programs that tutor them in their early years play a strong role in assuring them of their cognitive ability. Feeding programs at schools and at the local gym assure them of a meal and keep them not too far behind developmental milestones.
And lastly, after school programs can acclimatize them to social conditions that will instill the value of community and collective effort. Poverty is by no means a straightforward problem, it is complex and taxing on people experiencing it.
In the United States, almost 40 million people can attest to that proverbial tax. Research affirms that poverty creates conditions that increase the likelihood of homelessness and once the first few are felt, the rest follow like a domino effect.
If we continue to see poverty as a simple switch between the haves and have nots, then we will miss its development and be surprised at the state of homelessness in our neighborhoods and states.
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