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In America, a great debate rages about what exactly poverty is. The Census Bureau states that there were 46.2 million people living in poverty in 2010. According to information from The Heritage Foundation, approximately 1 out of 70 Americans was homeless at any given time, and 1 out of 5 adults experienced hunger, and temporary food shortages.
Speaking to several people, we’ve asked what they would perceive as poverty for them and their families. Kristina Dewey, who has a family of three and a current income of approximately $17,000 a year said, “When the family is out of food and no means to get food, that’s poor.” Her income was reduced from $35,000.00 a year.
Shannon Hause, of Rockford Michigan, also shared her views. She is a full time student, as is her husband. She has three children; one who is in the Navy and two teens still at home. Their annual income is $16,120.00 a year.
To Hause, poverty is about having to align her classes with her spouse’s as best as possible; she still has to wait several hours periodically through the week for him to finish in order to reduce costs. The cost of transportation, including parking fees, is too large for them to commute more than once a day.
Although this may be time used for homework, it is subsequently plenty of time lost on house work. Poverty for their family means lack of insurance for home and vehicle. It also means facing potentially dangerous situations involving their motor vehicle because of the inability to afford repairs.
Another example of poverty is exemplified by a woman named Lisa and her family. They recently moved in with her father-in-law in order to save money. Along with her and her husband, they have five children. That is five adults and three teens for a total of eight people, living in a two bedroom home.
Lastly, I can personally relate to poverty. It was not until seven months ago that my husband and I, along with my children who we have every other weekend and week in the summer, lived under harsh circumstances. Our income for over a year and a half amounted to no more than around $3,000.00 and only through the kindness of another did we manage through that time.
He provided us with a trailer in the back of a cornfield. The trailer was in a rough state and also had no electricity, and was without a working shower. We obtained our water from the well by use of a generator, and stored it in a 50 gallon barrel that my husband rigged to service the toilet, and the kitchen faucet.
We had no hot water, no computer, no games, and our radio was a car stereo hooked up to a 12 volt car battery. In the warmer weather, we bathed by the outdoor water barrel, where we strung blankets for privacy. In the winter we took sponge baths near the wood stove that heated our home.
We had no refrigerator, nor did we have a stove for the most part. I had to learn how to cook on two different wood stoves, the second being a barrel stove. I did have a small two burner camp stove that I used when we could afford the propane bottles for it. We bought a great deal of tinned meat, ate what game was available that the boys would bring in.
Milk and cold foods were an extreme luxury to us. About once a month we would splurge and put gas in the generator to watch a movie on vhs. My own circumstances have changed a great deal, and frankly what most consider dire poverty, I consider great deal more than we had. We still struggle financially, there is much we go without and there are times when hunger is in our home.
As these examples show, there are various ways of being impoverished in America. But the chance of this changing anytime soon is unlikely. In fact, things are likely to get even worse as more government level cuts are being imposed. The greatest hope for America today is the ‘little people’; small communities, neighbors, family and friends.
Americans should take a look around and see what they can do to change the situation in their towns. As things deteriorate financially, Americans need to take a look back at how people survived the Great Depression. Tend to your neighbor, if he is hungry feed him, put in gardens that many can tend, barter for goods. Hunger and housing problems are the two greatest enemies of a family on the line of poverty.
If you can help feed people then do so. If you have a place for someone to stay, offer it.