Poverty is caused by lots of things, lack of work, lack of skill to do available work, poor education, no transportation, inadequate child care options, mental illness, physical illness, family trauma, criminal past… but not Atheism.
Seriously, not Atheism.
If you need to go all hardcore Bible on me, then you need to admit that most of the people in the Bible are what we would now consider to be dirt poor. Adam and Eve did not have clothing or a house or indoor plumbing or even a television. Egypt faced a food shortage. People were telling the future by interpreting dreams. Most of the populace could not read or write. Jesus didn’t have a car or socks are probably clean underwear for everyday of the week.
Poverty sucks. That’s a fact. But it is not the worst thing that could ever happen to you and it is not the result of godlessness. People like this drive me up the wall with her craziness. What hat is her point?
Food Insecurity – it is a fancy way for saying “I could go hungry or be unable to feed my family”.
Food is a main part of human budgets. Food is fuel, medicine, community, and comfort – but without food, a person will surely die. Almost 13% of Americans are “Food Insecure”.
Food insecurity:“Limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.” (Cook & Frank, 2008, p. 193)
Low food security: reduced quality and variety of diets
Very low food security: disruption of normal eating patterns and hunger
The risk of food insecurity extends to people living above the federal poverty level
Ineligible for assistance programs
Competing expenses (e.g. rent, utilities)
I try not to come to you with a problem without showing you a solution.
This is my back yard. That is a 4×8 garden bed with soil that is a mix of mulch, exploded rock and soil.
It was assembled by volunteers from MEND. (This is my front yard and driveway. Yes, I helped too.) The green barrel is filled with the results of my attempt to clean up before they came.
MEND and other Food Banks give out boxes of food, and that is awesome. What could be better? Having a measure of self sufficiency is better. Being able to grow my own food, control the chemicals on the food, and teaching my child to garden . . . that is better!
Every Tuesday I am in a “Gardening Class” and I have learned all the parts of plants, how to recognize pests, ways to mix plants and how to water. I have seedlings sprouting on my kitchen window preparing to transplant.
Usually these go in soil, but my back yard is mostly pavement so the metal stakes stick up, and were hard to see so I topped them with Rubber Ducks. Yep, I am a mommy and the urge to baby proof doesn’t fade.
MEND and the California Master Gardeners are building these and teaching classes to the owners. I am excited to see how well this works and will keep you updated.
I can’t always control my income, but I can control some part of the access to food my family has so we won’t be insecure.
Food is a necessary ingredient to sustaining human life. It is also culturally defined the community experience, a family gathering point, personal history, exercise and activity, a component of wellness, a social event, currency, crafts, and employment. (Paraphrased from Chef Richard Weinroth)
Food is expensive – even with coupons and food stamps. It is even more expensive if you don’t ave a lot of money and do not qualify for this type of assistance. I was at MEND (I know, you are not shocked) asking the staff how they address this for their clients.
The Food Bank
The Food Pantry (where other food banks come for food)
The Hot Lunch Program
Homeless Food Bags
Diabetic Food Boxes
Home Gardening Program
Kid’s Food Education
It seems they have already given this some thought.
I am a terrible gardener. This is just another painful reminder that I am adopted because my parents and grandparents and great grandparents all have had meaningful and fruitful (see what I did there?) relationships with plants. With that in mind, and because I feel comfortable at MEND, I gave #6 a hard look and decided to try the Home Gardening Program.
I have to say that they take this seriously and I already planted 4 different types of seeds. NExt I have to schedule a home site visit to see if I have room for a 4×8 garden plus soil delivery . I have 3 more weeks of classes.
Tell me why you this this might be a good or bad idea.
I spent the day in a locked Psych Ward, or the “BHU” as we call it.
It was loud and filled with free range clients walking, talking and visiting with each other, or rocking in corners.
Judging people and ignoring them as nuisances is too easy. Seeing them as people who are ill and in pain means recognizing that they need and deserve more care. Care is scary, hard, and time consuming.
Receiving good care should be their right.
Why am I bothering you with this on a page about to h homelessness and poverty: it is hard to hold a job when you can’t think clearly. A job means money and money means housing and housing means you are less of an expense for the other taxpayers. Sound mental health is also key to staying close to family and friends who are your support networks.
Hal Espy was my boss at Cal State Long Beach when I worked in the Kitchen for 49er Shops. He was (may still be) a tall man who repeated the name of the person he just met seven times in their first introduction and then he never forgot the name. He was an Olympic Hopeful boxer of some repute before running the dining halls at a state university.
Hal used to walk up to me and take my hands, hold them close to his eyes and say “Yep, never known a day of hard work. You will never have to know a day of hard work.”. How I wish that were true, but he was wrong on both counts.
What he was correct about was this : “You will never understand what it’s like to be Black in a White World. It is unfair, it won’t ever be fair, and you probably won’t have to care.”
In all fairness, I grew up in Arcadia California where I only saw two black students the entire time I was in school from Kinder through High School graduation. I thought I was doing my part to set the world to rights when I boycotted Carl’s Jr. for having an owner who supported Apartheid. Walking into the dining hall at CSULB was like walking into a different world. I honestly had never seen people of color en mass before. Hal gave me one of my first jobs and educated me in more than food preparation and service. I used to sleep and have dreams about serving food and my whole body ached from standing and stretching and crawling under equipment to clean it, lifting up heavy pans of water from the food warmers, and my brain hurt from converting recipes for larger or smaller batches. The most important lesson came from watching “Cops”, the television show, in his office. HE told me to count the number of black folk being arrested and compare it to how every other nationality was presented.
When people would visit me at LAMP on Skid Row, I usually fielded questions and comments about the number of people of color living in the streets and shelters. True enough, there are more black folk in poverty than white., There are also more black folks incarcerated, and fewer positive representations of them in the popular arts.
I think the United states operates on the Brown Bag beauty test – and if you are darker than the bag you will get short changed.
I have never been able to change the way people are perceived and treated, but I have cared.
For the record, I am the only Caucasian worker in my office and have been the only generic white person on my employment level here for over seven years. Actually, I don’t think I have ever worked anywhere when I was in the majority. While you may say I am misusing my white privileged by not using it, I will tell you that it gets plenty of use without my trying.
So we’ve been hanging out here for over a decade (if you have been here since the beginning).
When I started this in an Excalibur hotel room in Las Vegas, I was a little buzzed and talking to my friends Bonnie and Isabel. They did not understand why I spend my days on skid row when I could choose to stay in cushy Arcadia, away from poverty, bugs and drugs.
The answer to that is “Poverty, drugs and disease are everywhere, even hidden in plain sight in ‘nice’ neighborhoods”. There is a stigma on poverty and people don’t ask for help because asking involves revealing that status.
My goal was to tell the story of my experiences – to let my friends see the world with me as their lens.
One example is: This is “Billy”. On the surface he is smelly, scary and unpleasant. He is a “stereotypical homeless guy” with visible symptoms of mental illness and completely off-putting. The reality of Billy is that he would bake me chocolate chip cookies on his cook stove and give me audio tapes of the radio show he always wished he could host. Billy was a teen foster kid who never bonded with his parents. As an adult he was desperate for love and acceptance but could not recognize it or trust it when it was offered to him. USC has taught me that this is related to Erickson’s stages of development and attachment. Fancy theories aside, what I want this blog to do is let you know that there is more to Billy than his smell and gruff manner and the surprising number of knives he has secreted on his person are more about him feeling safe and less about your chances of being stabbed by him.
In the big picture, I worry that I have failed. Homelessness sucks and I really wanted to slide in on the ground floor of the ending of homelessness. I had dreams that the problem would be defined and solution refined and I would be an active agent of change. The reality is that homelessness keeps increasing at 12% jumps. I suck. I have not ended anything.
But I also rock. Individuals have come to my desk homeless and the last time they left my office they had homes.
A bigger scale of success is “What have you learned from Homelessinla.com?”