Category Archives: Poverty

In Silicon Valley the poor ride a bus all night

In the movie Snowpiercer, what’s left of humanity is resigned to ride on a train with a perpetual motion engine. The world around them is inhospitable to human life so their existence is carried out on this train.

To draw a comparison to something that happens in the real world, we bare witness to the poor in Silicon Valley who are forced to ride around on a bus for the entire night.

The 22 bus is the only route that runs 24 hours in Silicon Valley and it has become something of an unofficial shelter for the homeless.

They call it Hotel 22.

This small pocket of The Golden State has become the most extreme example in the US of the growing schism between the haves and have nots.

Maybe Google or Facebook can lend out one of their luxurious coach buses to do the same thing. At least the homeless would then be able to ride in style! Thanks to gentrification and displacement fueled by the voracious appetite of the tech sector; we might be all riding on buses, maybe they’ll have Google’s self driving technology embedded in them!

Photo by Yang and Yun’s Album

America now has the most homeless children in U.S. History

That’s pretty remarkable in a sad way when you look at what the country has been through in the 20th century.

Prepared by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the report—America’s Youngest Outcasts (pdf)—shows that with poverty and inequality soaring in recent years, approximately 2.5 million children in 2013 found themselves without a roof over their head or place to call home. That number equals one in 30 American children nationally, and constitutes an 8 percent increase over the previous year.

via Study: More Homeless Children Now Than Any Point in US History | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.

Photo by The Library of Congress

How to fight cities who ban food sharing

If you live in one of the municipalities whose conservative terrorists have decided to ban food sharing aka feeding the homeless; here’s a way that you can think about fighting back and subverting their intentions.

Why doesn’t someone create a food sharing app? Think of it as the Uber of food sharing. Someone with a lot of food to share would be able to post to the web either via a website or smartphone app a location and time that they’d be able to disburse their food. The site could be open only to verified users, that way the wrong people aren’t able to easily locate these areas. Of course those who are in need of food assistance don’t necessarily have access to the Internet via phones, tablets or computers but at least the information would be more distributed and more people could find out by word of mouth.

It’s just an idea. But in the end the real issue is the nastiness of these cities to ban food sharing in the first place.

Photo by USDAgov

A large number of millennials aren’t going to college

I’m actually not surprised to learn that a large majority of the millennial generation in the United States are not going to college. College tuition has skyrocketed to levels that put it out to reach to many in the 99 percent. For those who do go to college they often end up saddled with enormous amount of debt.

Since society has refused to address this problem expect to see a major drag on the economy in the years ahead. Inequality is breeding what will be known as a lost generation.

Photo by Steve Rhodes

Are we wrong to enable panhandling?

Below is a viral video of a homeless New Yorker who lives off panhandling and sleeping with different women every night.

I recently posted a link to this video on the Facebook newsfeed of a friend who is a social worker in New York City that works with the homeless. I drew attention to the fact that this individual was making $150 dollars a day from panhandling. Personally, I felt that the behavior being exhibited by this individual was immoral and cast those struggling with homelessness and poverty in a negative light. He appears to me to be abusing the goodwill of others.

This is what my friend had to say in response to my sentiments of this being what’s wrong with some homeless individuals-

Lol, its not “whats wrong” with homeless people! They do what they must to get their needs met and panhandling is very profitable for the homeless AND the not homeless people who pretend to be homeless. I am totally against giving money to the homeless, I tell people this all the time. Give them food or buy them food, but do not give money.

Its a huge challenge in my line of work, because those that give my homeless clients money, enable them and make them want to stay in the streets because they are getting their needs met. They have no interest in coming inside and unfortunately, a majority of the time the money they make is used for drugs and alcohol, which makes the work so much more difficult because these homeless folks can’t sober up enough to work towards housing.

I have literally been in the streets with clients, watching them panhandle and have asked people not to give them money. So actually, the real problem, what’s really “wrong” is the people that give the homeless a dollar or quarter here and there. They think they’re doing a good deed, they’re helping the homeless, now they can pat themselves on the back for helping a homeless person. Then they get upset when the subways are full of beggars and the streets are lined with homeless people and they blame the system and lack of services in NYC. When in reality, they are part of the problem. Sometimes I feel like saying “good job sir, you just helped this man get his next pint of vodka and remain homeless!”

After reading these remarks I now realize that my belief that there are homeless individuals who abuse the kindness of others is a bit off. It’s not so much that they are using those of us who give them money as it us enabling their behavior. It’s like my friend says, they are getting their needs met and don’t know any better. It’s up to society-at-large and the professionals who work in the streets with the homeless everyday to show them the way.

Photo by Ed Yourdon

The nation is starting to realize that poverty has moved to suburbia

That’s right, poverty and homelessness is no longer just a symptom that ails your modern urban environment. Thanks to the twin destructive forces of gentrification and displacement, poverty is now found in suburbs at increasing levels.

Here in Washington D.C. displacement is thoroughly under way and has been for a decade or more. Everywhere you look in the city there are construction cranes and blocked of sidewalks building luxury housing and new office buildings. This has forced a lot of people to move out of the city and into the suburbs like in Prince George’s County. At this rate we’ll all be displaced for the 1 percent.

Photo by Robert Bruce Murray III // Sort Of Natural

The Pope shows why no one gets rich on their own

Pope Francis made what I thought was a remarkable statement recently:

People should share the “material goods [as well as] intellectual and spiritual ones” they have received, and should “give back generously and lavishly,” he said, according to a statement released by the Vatican.

We all have gifts that are given to us which are precious and we should share them with everyone. Some of us have gifts that are material in nature while others have physical and intellectual gifts that can be turned into material wealth. The point is, hardly anyone can say that their wealth was entirely accrued by their own doing. We are given gifts which we must give back.

This is how you stop poverty for the future

I just finished reading this report by The Century Foundation and Rutgers CURE about the concentration of poverty in America. Over the decades we’ve gone from immense poverty being concentrated in big cities to it becoming more dispersed into smaller areas of the country.

What’s important to know is that zoning and planning play a major role in allowing poverty to fester.

By 2050, the population is projected to reach about 400 million—a 28 percent increase. As a nation, we will have to build more than 30 million new housing units to accommodate this growth, and millions more to replace older housing units that are abandoned or torn down. We have to choose whether to build these new units in the same fragmented, segregated patterns as in past decades, or whether we will begin to move towards a society in which there is less socioeconomic differentiation between communities.

Policies that encourage gentrification and displacement are not the way to improve areas. Those approaches to development end up concentrating poverty somewhere else. Development must allow for more diversification and wealth flowing in than flowing out. The trick is for that wealth not to displace those who are already there.

Photo by keepitsurreal

A Catholic talks about finding out her mother was getting food stamps

This is a really thought-provoking piece. The author did a great job of highlighting the dichotomy between learning that her mother had sought food assistance while she, her daughter, sat on the board of a nonprofit and was being asked to become a major donor to that organization. Of course she must’ve been teeming with guilt, but she put those feelings aside long enough to inquire about the process of getting food stamps.

This was her mother’s reaction:

People in line had such dignity. No complaining, no pushing and shoving, some visiting among us. Beautiful people. Some young fathers with kids, also old men. Our world would be a better place if everyone had a chance to stand in this line.

This next excerpt highlights the author’s coming to terms with how she viewed people living in poverty.

Comparing my reaction with hers, I recognized with surprise how much I had internalized the dehumanizing rhetoric directed at poor people, a group that now includes members of my family.Asking for help to put food on the table should not be a cause for shame. However, instead of merely ignoring people who need help feeding their families, political leaders like Paul Ryan, who claims to be Catholic, are actively blaming them for the problems of our economy that excludes so many. The prophets of old attributed Israel’s tribulations to how it ignored the widows, the orphans, and the strangers. The demagogues of today blame the widows, the orphans, and the strangers for asking for basic sustenance. Far from embracing the preferential option for the poor, these politicians are advocating an active preferential scapegoating of the poor.

Turn on any conservative talk show or watch Fox News and you’ll come across this common line of attack against those struggling to make ends meet. It seems that if you find yourself unemployed and in dire straits, it is your fault and not the company who laid you off or the horrible economy. Now I may believe in evolution, what I don’t believe in is social Darwinism. This isn’t about survival of the fittest.

Great idea: Pop up street stores that give away free clothing

The ONE campaign had this awesome blog post about an experiment going on in Cape Town, South Africa that involves a pop-up street store. What organizers of the store have done is create a venue where people can donate clothing and others in need can pick them up.  I like to think of it as the thrift shop going to where the people are instead of the people going to the thrift shop, but in this case the clothing is also free of charge. After watching the video below what also surprised me was the enormous demand there was for clothing by the city’s homeless population.