What Does the Rise in Poverty Say About our Society?

Commentary by Angelo Anderson

I’m wondering how we change the landscape of having people sleeping on steam grates on side streets in downtown Cleveland, Ohio to stay warm.  Does being on a side street make them invisible? Or do we choose to ignore them because of why we think they are there?  If these people were sleeping by the casino or stadium would we arrest them and charge them with what--staying warm overnight? 

There are many of us who make assumptions as to why a person is sleeping outside on a grate; or the ground with covers trying to keep warm.  Have ‘YOU’ every considered the real reason why? Or do you believe the propaganda fed to us through various media channels and the opinions of others regarding homelessness? Do you know?

How fast is a nation’s decline when we ignore the fact that poverty is growing and especially family homelessness growing?  

POVERTY is scarcity, dearth, or the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money.

Close the institutions that house and treat the mentally ill and they are left on their own, sometimes on the streets.  Where do they go?  Who is willing to help?  No monitoring, no medication – this leads to a lack of trust, outbursts and breakdowns.  All of these are behaviors that are not socially acceptable and why?  Our society has not found a place in its melting pot for those who don’t fit the mold.  As survivors, these mentally ill turn to the streets and create a space they can call their own.  In their minds, they too need a place to call home.

Cuts to unemployment benefits, SNAP, WIC, Head Start Programs, cuts in funding to Public School Systems, rising tuitions and shrinking availability of student loans and grants and POVERTY GROWS!   Without access and information, people can only teach what they know.  We often mirror our environments. Lack of access to resources, or the red tape to get resources makes it difficult for those living in certain communities. 

Inability to obtain employment that provides for life’s basic necessities – POVERTY IS SUSTAINED!  This cycle is often found in low-income, under-educated populations, however it is now starting to spread to middle-class suburban populations due to our nation’s declining economy and marginal job market.

SUSTAINED POVERTY can lead to: homelessness, drug and alcohol use and abuse, criminal activity and violence.

Our society ignores all its ills until that ill hits one of the affluent.  Then we have advocates and rights and protestors who don’t understand ‘why’ something isn’t being done to help.  Well, what about our everyday people who have worked 20 – 30 years and the plant closed the doors?  How about our veterans who serve on the front line so that we can enjoy the freedoms our great country offers; and yet when they have PTSD or shell shock we leave them in the streets to die like the enemy. 

What happens when it’s your company that downsizes after you purchase a home, a car, or have to pay your student loans?  How will you handle it when the insurance company says no to the critical medicines needed for everyday activity?  When will you start advocating for tuitions that are affordable to everyone? 

If not now, then when?  If not you, then who?

“Those PEOPLE” you walk by on the grates – previously worked alongside you.  “Those PEOPLE” you snicker at, miss their children and the comforts of home life.  They would like a smile, a hello, and some acknowledgement of their humanity. 

As our nation changes, there is a greater possibility of you joining one of “those people” on the grates than there is of them joining you in the workforce.

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO