Homeless children and faces of poverty

In case you missed it, here is a link to Scott Pelley’s outstanding and heartbreaking story about the effects of homelessness on our children. As a teacher in a high poverty urban public school, I know what he is reporting is true. At least two of my students began the year in hotels; in previous years one of my students lived in the U Haul carrying all their worldly possessions after they were evicted. Some children have infrequently shared that they did not have electricity as the service had been shut off. Still others come to school and scuffle for food, for breakfast items that were not consumed by their peers. Clearly they do not have enough to eat.

The most jaw-dropping piece of information Mr. Pelley shared was that the United States – the land of plenty – considers a family to be living below the poverty level if they are a family of four with $22,000 per year. Who can do that; who can do that with 4 people?

For me, this fact points to the fallacy of statistical information as applied by our government. If the poverty level is defined as 4 people living on $22,000 each year; there are many more families in actual poverty than our government track with this skewed classification. $22,000 is not a living income for a single person – at least here in the Northeast – that amount applied to 4 is beyond the pale.

Recently I read an article stating that the income gap between rich and poor is the widest it has been in 80 years. The “recovery” has not trickled down to those living on the margins. Social services are facing cuts in budgets and services that will only make this worse.

I do not hold out much hope for our government to provide a safety net for children of poverty. These children sadly seem to know better than I, that the situation is not hopeful. That, in this land of plenty, they are faceless and nameless, and sadly, powerless.

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