I was watching Extreme Home Makeover “The Gibbs family” when I was overtaken by emotion. Six kids raised by a mom who suffered 5 brain aneurysms 6 months after her husband passed away. The house was falling down with ceilings that were rotted, flies everywhere, and 2 of the kids had to sleep on the coaches. It was a visual picture of poverty that made me cry for 20 minutes.
Then, Wednesday I was driving to work and there was a kid pushing a kid in a stroller. The taller, maybe 15 years old, was in a dirty jacket, old shoes and filthy pants and toddler being pushed in the stroller had 3 days worth of dirt and food on her face, one shoe missing, and an old coat. Now I know poverty doesn’t always look dirty but sadly, this isn’t uncommon in my town of less than 12,000 people. There are 4,000 living in poverty. The behavior, appearance, and attitudes of poverty mentality is all over. Rude language and manners, apathy, violence, destruction, lack of respect for authority, lack of respect for education, lack of respect of property, and dishonor.
Now saying that… I myself have lived in poverty. Even when I started earning 2 times the amount of the average person, I still lived with poverty mentalities of no respect for my property, spending more than I earned, and relying on someone else or system to fix it. (MY Credit Cards)
Even though I have made a lot of progress, I still have a ways to go. As we go into another year I think it is important for all of us to check ourselves for Poverty Roots and if you have a passion for helping those in Poverty, I encourage you not only to work on yourself, but also read the rest of the blog and tell us what you think of my opinion.
What does living in poverty financially look like? In my town for a family of 3, it is $18,310 a year. Let’s think about that? If a mom has kids and stays home to watch them and the dad works to pay rent, utilities, transportation, groceries, insurance and any other necessities that is only about $1,525 a month…. that is about $9 an hour working 40 hours a week at a minimum wage job or $12 an hour working a “Part Time Walmart job” of about 30 hours a week.
Could someone survive with that minimum standard? Let’s See
Here are some stats for my town of about what things cost (conservative estimates):
Rent (2 bedroom apartment): $500
Transportation (cheap car payment and gas): $250
Car Insurance: $75
Health Care Insurance: $300 (low estimate)
= $1550 Therefore, this family would fall short of the minimum of $25 every month as long as they don’t buy anything else and nothing else happens that requires money.
But I know what you are thinking already! You are saying, “Mary, you know as well as I do that most people living in poverty get public assistance”. Yes you are correct, but let’s talk about Assistance THE GOOD AND THE BAD.
Housing assistance – People need shelter especially in my town where it snows 8 months of the year.
Downside – Accountability of care and who lives in the homes is limited. Most of the time either landlords don’t put any effort into making the homes clean and comfortable or the tenants dirty and destroy the property. (My opinion, remember)
Food assistance – Food Stamps, Food Pantries, Food Banks Women and Infant Food and Formula all important and needed. Hunger is still a problem especially in children here and all over the world.
Downside – Fresh foods are very rare at food banks, which contain the highest nutrition content and for Food Stamps assistance, there is no regulation of what foods you can or should buy. The cashiers at our local grocery store inform me that I would get sick watching kids and adults with food stamps purchasing Monster Energy Drinks and carts full of junk food. Did you know that Bakeries can even take food stamps. A local Buffalo, NY Bakery makes $100 birthday cakes for individuals who pay in food stamps. Our Women and Infant food program limits what formulas they disperse so if a baby requires a certain brand because of digestive complaints the woman will have to pay for it. Sadly our local food stamp system is abused further when those incarcerated and fed 3 square meals a day are still accumulating food stamp credits. One local man was able to use over $1000 dollars of food stamps when he was released from 100 days in jail.
Money assistance – I don’t know all the facts of our local Department of Social Services but I do know they have benefits for emergencies, babysitting, rent etc.
Downside- Don’t know a lot, but recently an 18 year old unstable new mom who had a stable home with her mother, and who was assisting in the care of her child, decided she would much rather go live in an apartment with her boyfriend. 2 months later because of the money assistance they get, she lives in a small apartment with her boyfriend receiving almost $1300 in money, housing and food assistance.
My good friend who is single and works her butt off in a home business 20 hours a week and working a 20 hours a week job makes $35,000 a year and complained to me that the store employees earn more than her a year with their government assistance and food stamps and just working 15 hours a week for minimum wage and having several kids. The comment made by these women were “why would we want to work more when the government has provided nicely for us…”
I was on government assistance for a short period of my life… and I admit, I did once buy almost $80 dollars on a birthday cake and junk food for a party I had. I admit it. But there was a greater part of me that wanted to be done with that, that was ashamed but even more, wanted to have something greater for my life.
This year I got to work with 3 individuals in serious poverty. One young 21 year old man who had been in and out of correctional institutions since he was 14 years of age. The others were a 50 year old mom and her 15 year old daughter who had such bad financial skills that they had moved over 30 times, including shelters, in her daughters lifetime. The mom was obsessed with her appearance and was proud of the fact she was still stripping at a local strip club every week.
After many conversations with these individuals I learned that it is the MINDSET that needs to be changed starting in the youth if we are to change our community.
Making Assistance programs stricter with drug testing and more accountable is very important, but until we change the MINDSET of the individuals we cannot change their outcomes.
My husband grew up in poverty and yet he is one of the most successful people I know. Why? Because his mom instilled a strong work ethic, responsibility, honor, and God into his heart. Although she qualified, she could not use public assistance because it was shameful to her. So later in Jay’s life when he was very, very poor, he would eat people’s 8 day leftovers and crackers, walk 10 miles to work, do extra jobs to just keep his head above water. Today he is an IT Analyst and owns two Small Businesses.
Working with these individuals this summer, I learned that both the 21 year old and the 15 year old were spoiled as children. The 15 year olds mom didn’t have money but she gave into her every whim. Today you can still see her throwing a tantrum at 15 and the 50 year old acting like her sister and not her mom. These two have a mindset of ME mentality and an I Deserve it Mentality which ultimately I believe will lead to their destruction.
But the biggest thing I learned from these individuals this summer besides how not to raise children was that if we want to change our community, if we want to change Poverty, we have to change the MINDSET more than their Bank Account.
How can we change Mindsets about Poverty? Well I do believe some Community organizations are on the right paths. They are starting with young children and youths to instill compassion, encouragement, and skills that will let them rise up.
If you want to see some examples of this, take 40 minutes and watch this Secret Millionaire show with my friend Dani Johnson. I especially liked the Music Program for youth in poverty.
Let me know how you think we can change Poverty. Please your comment below. Thank you for reading to my opinion.
Dr. Mary Starr Carter is known as the Total Wellness Doc. She has been training individuals about Natural Health Solutions for over 13 years. She is trained as a Chiropractor and has studied under the world’s foremost leaders in natural medicine. She is a mother and a wife and has created a balanced and total wellness life for herself and thousands of her clients using her simple wholistic approach to health and wellness. Her coaching, classes and ebooks help clients with Fibromyalgia, Hormone and Adrenal issues, Asthma, Diabetes, Weight problems, Thyroid and Chronic pain find resources and solutions to better health.
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