Saturday, January 11, 2014

20 Things the Poor Really Do Every Day (plus my take)

This comes from Bill Irwin via the Huffington Post 20 Things Poor People Really Do

While Mr. Irwin speaks from a third party view, he speaks as someone that has witnessed homelessness, and living in poverty, I am speaking from a first person perspective.

1. Search for affordable housing.

For most people this can be a problem, with the standards for section 8/HUD housing being pretty hard to pass muster.  Believe it or not, there are many people who do not qualify for "affordable" housing.  When I was working, making minimum wage, my income alone did not qualify for aid, but if I would have had one child, I would have.  I eventually was forced to move back in with my parents, and ultimately we were all three homeless.  I may have qualified for these types of housing vouchers when my income went to $0., but because of my dads income, we were still sunk. 

2. Try to make $133 worth of food last a whole month.
That is a startling statistic for even me, someone who was down and out.  I did not get food stamps, I did not qualify.  I was dumped on the good graces of food banks, and stealing out of dumpsters.  This is not an easy thing to do, considering that even today we try to keep the food bill down under $100 a week.  That is not a lot of food people, and he is right it leads to #3 and #4.  I never got food stamps, I didn't qualify, like housing vouchers, these are based on the income of the household. 
3. Subsist on poor quality food.

Even today, if you see me at a grocery store I am haunting the reduced price foods.  How did you think I ate on less than $100 a week.  You hunt and pick food that is reduced, meats that are about to spoil, and hope that you get to that meal before the food goes bad.  At times it requires eating stuff that has gone bad, but if it has gone to far, you are out of the money you spent.  With foods costing so much, it is the only option you really have.  When you have $15 to feed three or four people, you have to go there.

4. Skip a meal.

I still eat one meal a day.  I just cannot bring myself to eat more than a single meal a day, even when I am working.  You might be thinking that I eat one massive meal a day, but no, not really.  I usually eat my reduced price meat, with a serving of bagged instant potatoes, and a hamburger bun.  Sometimes it is a piece of beef kielbasa on a hotdog bunWhatever I can find on the cheap that week.

5. Work longer and harder than most of us.   

When I worked, I spent most of my time working.  I worked well over sixty to eighty hours a week at times.  I took every shift I could, and there were times I would walk out on a Monday afternoon, and would not return back until the following Monday night.  That is almost seven straight days and nights.  During the winter I would throw a duffel bag in the back seat of my truck that would hold a weeks worth of clothing (and deodorant, toothbrush/paste, and cleaning wipes), a cot so I could lay down for an hour or two, canned goods to eat, and water to drink while I was at work.  If that is lazy, I don't know what hard work is.  I was not alone, many people I worked with did that.

6. Go to bed 3 hours before their first job starts.

I worked twelve to fourteen hour shifts at night.  My routine consisted of me coming in from work, getting home anywhere between 0730 and 1000 and going to bed.  I would then wake up at 1300, log into my college's website, submit coursework and papers, before heading back to work at three, no later than four. I put myself through college on a major sleep deficient.  Something that I am still dealing with.  I have fallen asleep behind the wheel, I have had to pull off the road and slept there until a police officer woke me up.  I was always lucky, far too lucky, I never had an accident while driving without sleep.

7. Try to avoid getting beat up by someone they love. 

This is beyond true.  Take two or more people, put them in a tent for one or two years, unable to afford to go anywhere else, you have two or more people who are constantly around each other.  Sure humans are mostly social creatures, but we also need our personal space a moment to gather our thoughts.  Something that you can't really get in the winter and on those nasty days.  You start to see those annoying habits that people have, and they seem to do it, just to piss you off.  I cannot count the times that I ragged out my parents, the times my father took a swing at me, and the time I told him it would be the last mistake of his life if he took a swing at me again.  It gets tenuous, everyone afraid to speak out of fear that they will set someone else in the tent off.

8. Put themselves in harm's way, only to be kicked to the streets afterward.

I have nothing on this one.  I was never in the military, it was not a lack of trying, but with a bad eye, they would not have me.

9. Pay more than their fair share of taxes. 

This one is self explanatory.  When I held a regular day job (or multiple jobs), my tax rate was around 25%.  Think about that, 25 cents on every dollar I earned went to the federal government or the state government, out of that I most of the federal taxes back, but was limited on the amount of taxes the state returned.  Now Mr. Irwin brought up an interesting point, sales taxes, payroll taxes (and fees), and other miscellaneous taxes.  These taxes sap you pretty quick, I would always take state and federal taxes as a loss, it was money that just was not there.  Those other taxes just kill you, you cannot account for them, as each place is slightly different, taxes at one Wal-Mart are not the same as the taxes at one located 10 miles down the road.

10. Fall further behind.

Once you fall down that slippery slope, before you know it you are hanging onto a cliff face.  And trust me you do look down.  When you are poor, once bounced check, and you are in for one hell of a ride, if you have little income coming in, it takes you forever to recover from one oversight, one error.  Depending on how badly you get your account messed up, determines how long it takes you to dig out.  If you make a thousand dollars a month, and your account finds itself five hundred overdrawn, it will take you almost a year to regroup, if nothing else goes wrong.  But it often does.

Furthermore, while I was tent living, I had someone try and tell me that it is cheaper living in a tent, than a home.  It is not cheap living in a tent.  Keep this in mind, you cannot store most types of food.  Dry goods become buggy, meats will go bad, because you do not have an area the protect them from the elements.  This means that every week, or every few days you are running to the store to get food for the next few days.  On top of that, you are also buying foods that are already nearly spoiled, making it harder.

If you are unemployed it becomes harder to get a job.  While they have essentially banned credit checks for gaining employment, you still have to pass muster on the Homeland Security Background Check, which checks your credit.  If you do not have a physical address, yeah, you guessed it.  Kick a man while he is down.

11. Raise kids who will be poor.

I do not have any children.  Thankfully I do not have them, I would be consigning them to a pretty lousy fate right now.  For me, education is important, it is the best way to move forward, but what kind of education would my kids have.  If they are lucky they will get out of high school.  But to make hay while the sun shines, you need it.  But when you work low paying jobs, it is an endless cycle.

12. Vote less.

Now, if you have read Mr. Irwin's article, we are going to take exception to each other.  I voted less, not because I was not inclined to, but because I was kicked off the voter roles, and it was slightly illegal.  See, when you are homeless, you no longer reside at the location listed on your voter ID card.  Before that I always took the time to vote, it made for a sleepless day when I was coming off my shift and/or had to go back in later that night, but I always took the time to vote, some people are not that lucky, they cannot take the time for voting, as they have kids, or other things that require their attention.  There are not enough hours in the day to vote.

13. When they do vote... they vote pretty much the same as the rest of us.

When I did vote, I always chose the candidates that I felt best reflected the direction I wanted for the country.  The irony is, I voted with the majority of people in my state (outside of the presidential vote).  Go figure?
 14. Live with chronic pain.

I suffer from chronic migraines induced by stress.  I was diagnosed after a year and a half of tent living, I have had problems with my knee for years (not really that important, until I limp in for a job interview).  I wonder why?  Well, believe it or not, I was not the only one.  My father started picking up random aches and pains (72 now), and my Mom with headaches, stomach pains, leg pains, degenerative disk disease in her back.  Both have medications for pain management, and me for migraines, but guess what?  My Dad is the only one who takes his medications for pain (he is the only one with social security).  My Mom also skips the lions share of her medications as we could not afford them.  I gave up on mine after the first script gave out, I lacked the money to visit a doctor for a followup appointment.

15. Live shorter lives.

When you add up, eating poorly, eating less, weathering the elements, not taking medications, and all the lovely little things you are forced into when you are poor, or homeless, you are not going to have a longer better quality life.  It is actually going to be shorter, and with more health problems.

16. Use drugs and alcohol pretty much the same as (or less than) everyone else.

While Mr. Irvin points out that wealthier people consume more alcohol, but more poor people I know smoke.  Ah, cigars cigarettes, they kill hunger, they can relieve pain, they can give you energy, and they can reduce stress levels.  Sure some of it is in the mind, but some of it is real.  So, now you might understand why so many poor people are always bumming money for smokes, and don't care about the other side effects.

17. Receive less in subsidized benefits than corporations. 

Mr. Irwin's article sums this up nicely.  It is a sad state of affairs that so many subsidies go to corporations, when this money could be used in so many different ways, some of them being used to get people back to work, even if it is only digging a hole and filling it back in.

18. Get themselves off welfare as soon as possible.

Again Mr. Irwin says it far better than I, with one exception.  While many people want off welfare, it is also a trap, just like section 8 housing.  Once you are in the door, it is nearly impossible to get off, unless you are willing to suffer for it.  I knew a family who had fallen onto hard times, they were in section 8 housing.  The wife attempted to get a job, and was informed that if she had gotten the job, she would see an increase in rent, and a decrease in subsidies.  That makes it hard to get off the government tit.

19. Have about the same number of children as everyone else.

Most of the poor people I know have at most three children.  Most of the homeless people I have encountered have two, but those two have been taken by the state.  Sad state of affairs.

20. Accomplish one single goal: stay alive.

Some people will say that Mr. Irwin and I are exaggerating.  Poverty is not as bad here as it is everywhere else, but really it is just as bad here as it is everywhere else.  The major difference is the setting.  Sure in a third world nation people do not have as much, but the money they have access to goes just as far as the money we have.  Basically, poverty is not something that can really be compared across societies, but in a way it can be.  If we assume that poverty is poverty, and none of it is good, we will see that people in the third world do without essentials, and people in the first world also do without essentials.  The key difference, we here in the first world are modernized enough that people in poverty can steal food from dumpsters, and stores.  That makes the only real difference the ability to acquire goods.