This month’s photo depicts school children walking past a condemned home on the historic civil rights march route from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
The ongoing human costs of poverty are significant. Until 2013, poverty in the U.S. rose nearly every year since 2000 (other than a brief reverse in trend between 2005 and 2006). What the statistic fails to capture however is the alarming number of financially fragile households teetering on the brink of poverty. The prevalence of poverty impacts every aspect of life from its quality and length, to potential lifetime wages and educational opportunities. The debate around an “undeserving poor” ignores the fact that many of these people need support through a short-term economic emergency and a bridge toward employment. Heron’s Toni Johnson recently spoke about the personal experience of growing up in poverty in her Huffington Post article on Safety Nets and the ‘Deserving Poor.’
An excerpt from the article:
I tried to tell myself from the moment I moved into the ghetto, I was leaving the first chance I got. But in those years, I had to live every day with the crushing reality that maybe this would always be my life. Every day, I had to watch women sell themselves for drugs, walk by the middle-school drug dealers on the street corner, and end my days in a home rocked by domestic violence and alcohol addiction. Even with all my so-called advantages, I often think about what would have happened to me without the food stamps between 1983 and 1987. We use the term “safety net” but that doesn’t begin to get at how vital they were for me from age 9 to about 13 in my unsafe world. Without them, I might have ended up in foster care, on the streets or something worse in our crack-ridden neighborhood.