The Face of Poverty

Front page of the Virginian-Pilot, February 29, 2012

I was planning on writing another light-hearted post this morning, but reading the newspaper at breakfast put an end to that.  On the front page was a picture of a young woman, Kimberly Meade, crying in her car.  She had lost everything she owned in a fire at a cheap motel. She said, “We moved here two days ago after we were evicted from our home.  All my stuff is gone.  I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

We drive by that motel fairly often when we’re driving across the Hampton Roads Bay Bridge Tunnel on our way to Williamsburg or Richmond.  It is in a run-down section of Norfolk, right on the Chesapeake Bay.  Even had the motel not been ravaged by fire, it would have been a less than ideal place, to say the least, for a single mother to have to raise a child.  Now this young woman and her four-year-old daughter didn’t even have that.

The Red Cross stepped in, as they always do, to help the people displaced by the fire, but, of course, that is just a temporary fix.  There are so many Kimberly Meades out there that do not know where they are going to go, what they’re going to eat, how they are going to survive.  The children of these people are destined to continue this cycle.  I don’t know what the answer is, but political elections should be about finding a solution.  Politicians can talk all they want about the rights of the unborn, but if they would put as much effort into helping those who are born, we might see some change.

Much has been said about continuing unemployment benefits for those who have lost jobs, but we don’t talk about those people who aren’t eligible for unemployment because they didn’t have a job in the first place.  What about people fresh out of college or technical schools who couldn’t find any employment when they graduated?  If they have a strong family support system, they will make it, even though it may be a struggle for themselves and their families.  But so many people do not have that support system.  I worry about them.

Sometimes I feel like Ron Paul does, though I definitely do not advocate isolationist policies.  But why do we spend so much money on people who hate us when we have so many people who are hurting right here in our own country?  I know throwing money around doesn’t always fix things because we have to get at the root of the problem, whatever that is, but it still seems like a better use of taxpayers’ money than throwing it to countries who would love nothing more than seeing our destruction.

I have no other reason for writing this than that I saw that picture in the paper this morning, and it made me sad.  It made me cry.  Kimberly Meade.  Remember her name. Remember her face.  Poverty has a name.  It has a face.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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28 Responses to The Face of Poverty

  1. Robin says:

    Thank you for this. It was a great post. My youngest son and daughter-in-law had been out of work for almost a year and were not eligible for unemployment benefits. They have college degrees and have had to live with family. They are finally (yay!) gainfully employed although the jobs are temporary. Hopefully they will be able to find permanent jobs soon.

    I loved this: “Politicians can talk all they want about the rights of the unborn, but if they would put as much effort into helping those who are born, we might see some change.”

    • Coming East says:

      Thank you, Robin. My middle child has a law degree and a huge law school debt, but he is struggling to find enough work in Massachusetts to support himself. Since he is self-employed, he also is not eligible for unemployment benefits. What do people do if they don’t have families who can help them? I guess they end up like Kim.

      • Robin says:

        That’s interesting. My daughter-in-law has a law degree, huge law school debt, and the same problem with finding work. I guess a degree isn’t what it used to be.

      • Coming East says:

        No, a degree doesn’t get you a job these days. Sorry about your daughter not having a job. We certainly know how that feels!

  2. pattisj says:

    Great post, Susan. I hope more people are touched to reach out and help Kimberly and those who find themselves in the predicament.

  3. Huffygirl says:

    Well put Susan. Unfortunately, I have a job because of the poor. I work in a free clinic for the uninsured in a small town. I am busy all day, every day. Most patients are unemployed, either through job loss, or from being the kind of person who never had the social and intellectual skills to become and stay employed in the first place. Every patient comes in with 4-5 problems, because they don’t have the access to health care that people with insurance have. Some I can fix, some I can’t. We have a full time staff to complete applications for the patients to get free prescriptions from pharmaceutical charity programs. About 90% of the patients have terrible teeth – some from drug use, some from a lifetime of no dental care and high soda intake, and some from a combination of the above. I could go on and on. Money helps, but it is only part of the problem. We are raising generations of people who lack job and social skills, we throw the mentally ill out on the streets, and we have 3 generations of folks who never learned to work because their parent (not parents) never did, and we send the few unskilled jobs we have left in the country to the third world. I better stop now – sorry for the rant.

    • Coming East says:

      You really get to see what it’s all about, HG. As you say, there are so many reasons why people live in poverty, and there’s not a quick solution or even one solution. Thank you for your very thoughtful and informative comment.

  4. Amy says:

    “Poverty has a name. It has a face.” Well said.
    Susan, Do you know if there is a local place for people like me who want to donate money to help her?

  5. Important post! I work once every three months at a homeless shelter and I definitely worry and wonder what becomes of the folks we care for and meet there. It’s so complicated.

    • Coming East says:

      It is a complicated issue, Georgette. We will always have poverty, but we have to be able to make things better. Working in a homeless shelter, you see these people close up. They have faces and names for you.

  6. gaycarboys says:

    In Australia everyone is entitled to welfare whether they have worked or not. No one would have zero income. The system is abused occasionally but I would rather live in a society that has a safety net for all with the odd slip-up than one in which the unfortunate are ignored. That’s not to say there are not lots of unemployed and homeless. You lady in the car upset me. Her desperate situation took a dreadful turn with no one to help her. How can a wealthy country like the US possibly let one of its citizens be in such dire circumstances. Is there not public housing? Is there not a helping hand? Is the US government really that uncaring and hard hearted?

    • Coming East says:

      We do have a safety net for desperate people, GCB. That young woman most like qualifies for food stamps, and there are shelters and other agencies. Many churches have food banks as do most cities. But these are all temporary fixes, and what a way to live! Not having any permanent place to live means that you have to keep pulling your child from one school and putting her in another one. We are a very caring nation, but we are also a very large nation, and the problem is immense, especially now when the economy is in such a tenuous state. Also, some people don’t even know how to get the help they need. Poverty can be paralyzing.

  7. What a powerful picture, and powerful post. Thanks for sharing. -kate

  8. Margie says:

    I agree with you that our society seems to have misplaced something. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly, but when there isn’t enough money to hire people who want to work, yet there is more than enough money to wage wars and … well, there is no end to the list of how money could be distributed more equitably, is there!

  9. Thanks for this post. I am eternally grateful for the photojournalists and writers who do far more to change the world by awakening the hearts and spirits of the invisible heroes in our communities than those who were hired by those heroes (read that elected) who seem to be disabled by making a deliberate choice to not move past their narcissistic rhetoric.

  10. This was an incredibly powerful post. I think, too, that the state of politics is unreliable, and individuals must step in and help in any way they can. Whether it’s writing a post like this, giving money to a friend who is in need, working in a soup kitchen, or whatever, every little bit helps.

  11. Shary Hover says:

    I’m glad you wrote it, even if it is a heart-wrenching post. Sometimes I think we forget that any of us could be in Kimberly’s shoes if not for some good luck along the way.

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