The original posting of text covered in this video is located here: Poverty Survivor Pride: No Shame In Being Poor | Adora Myers
Abusive individuals, stalkers and criminals specializing in destroying or selling human beings (e.g., human traffickers, pimps, etc.) all have one primary goal: isolate the target. The wheel-of-slander is one of many methods commonly used to isolate a victim while simultaneously convincing other people that the victim ‘deserves’ whatever horrible crimes the stalker or criminal chooses to perpetrate.
This technique does not require establishing a level of trust. It only requires identifying established gossips and their hot-button topics. A period of observation and casual interaction is usually sufficient.
Initiating the Gossip
The stalker approaches the gossip with ‘news’ about the target, who just happens to be [hot button issue]. The stalker purposely crafts an enticing story, specifically designed to get the gossip emotionally involved in attacking the target. The story leaves out all concrete evidence, details about the stalker and the source(s) for the ‘facts’ provided. Instead, ‘proof’ is provided in common everyday actions and interactions, such as: the way the person walks or speaks, the type of clothes they wear, their physical address or even the color of their eyes/skin/hair.
The less concrete or valid the evidence, the more effective the gossiping campaign. This is because the people who enjoy verbally attacking another person (just for fun) will jump in and elaborate, while individuals who are more naïve will begin to believe that these things truly are concrete proof of [hot button issue]. Sadly, the individuals who see through this game will often remain silent and watch it play out from a distance, out of fear of becoming a target themselves.
After the first gossip has been inspired to act, the stalker locates the second gossip with a different hot-button issue and proceeds to create an equally fictitious story about the target. This second gossip proceeds to spread vicious rumors with loose (at best) and completely irrelevant (at worse) indicators of ‘proof’ that the target is [second hot button topic].
Sadly, most people will not consider how highly improbable it is for multiple extreme accusations levied at a single individual to contain any amount of verifiable truth. In fact, the accusations could completely contradict one another, and the crowd-response will usually consist of a poorly defined sense of fear and revulsion that can best be defined as this is a bad and dangerous person – stay away.
Common slanderous accusations used during a Wheel-of-Slander assault in the United States:
- Abuser (e.g., Child, Animal, etc.)
- Criminal Activity (e.g., They claim to be trustworthy, but they are really [hot button issue] – they just haven’t been caught yet)
- Cultural Heritage (e.g., They claim to be X, but they are really Y)
- Dating or ‘Interest’: (e.g., They claim to be single or in a relationship, but they are really dating or trying to date [hot button issue])
- Drug or Alcohol Addiction (e.g., They deny it, but they are really getting high/drunk in secret – they make sure no one sees them buying or using the stuff.)
- Hate Group Association (e.g., They deny it, but they are really a member of [hate group])
- Mental Illness (It’s important to note that ‘crazy’ never has to be proven, it only needs to be stated. Most people will believe another person is ‘crazy’ based on rumor alone.)
- Physical Illness (stigmatizing)
- Political Affiliations or Beliefs
- Racial Heritage (e.g., They look [race], but they are really [race])
- Secret Religion (e.g., They claim to be X, but they are really Y)
- Sexual Identity (e.g., They claim to be X, but they are really Y)
- Stalking (e.g., They claim to be dealing with a stalker, but they are really the stalker themselves.)
- Witchcraft (It’s important to note that the beliefs behind the Salem Witch Trials perpetuate in the present day – people actually believe witches are real and must be eliminated through lynching.)
(This list could contain hundreds of examples, but you get the idea.)
Exercise: Randomly select four (4) numbers and pull those items off the above list. Put that list together into a single description. Imagine being the victim and trying to address any one of these assaults. How would you make sense of what people are saying and why? Now try to imagine creating a method for addressing the problem. Where do you go? Who do you confront? Who do you sue for slander?
Gossip is never factual. People who regularly participate in gossip do so for the thrill of destroying another human being. Therefore, gossips are inherently unethical and untrustworthy individuals. It is important to learn to recognize when this behavior is occurring and call it out for what it is.
Facts are verifiable. Human beings are creatures of habit, and most people say and do things that are logical – or, at least, follow a well-defined pattern. This makes fact-finding reasonably easy – as long as the person researching the facts is sincerely looking for FACTS instead of ‘proof’ for what they’ve already decided to be true.
- Always question gossip.
- Always question inflammatory statements.
- Always question ‘facts’ provided without clear or verifiable proof.
Marginalized groups face higher levels of data collection when they access public benefits, walk through highly policed neighborhoods, enter the health-care system, or cross national borders. That data acts to reinforce their marginality when it is used to target them for suspicion and extra scrutiny. Those groups seen as undeserving are singled out for punitive public policy and more intense surveillance, and the cycle begins again. It is a kind of collective red-flagging, a feedback loop of injustice.
–Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor by Virginia Eubanks
This is a follow-up to my post How To Help Someone Facing Homelessness. If you are trying to help someone else who is facing homelessness, then read the first post – it’s long and detailed, but it contains a lot of important information most people don’t think about. After you’ve done that, start making a plan by thinking through the suggestions in that first post, researching the websites listed below and reading books about homelessness.
If you are facing homelessness…
The events that ultimately result in homelessness are wide and varied. There are literally thousands (millions?) of stories behind the financial emergencies that ultimately result in homelessness. However, when facing the reality of homelessness, focusing on the reasons behind the current crisis is a luxury you do not have.
Here is a list of actions to take and facts to consider. (Note: This information is specific to the United States of America.)
All Homeless, Regardless of Age
- Contact every trustworthy human being you know. Ask for suggestions and help.If there is an option other than the sleeping on the street, take it. Do not stop until you have exhausted every last resourced you have.
- Contact every nonprofit, government agency and similar resource you have. If they have help to offer (including advice) take it. Do not stop until you have exhausted every last resourced available.
- Keep your mind fierce. You are human and worthy of respect. Remain focused on moving through this crisis and into something better. People will try to tear you down mentally and emotionally because they can. Predators will try to convince you that you are worthless and should just give up. Don’t let them succeed.
- Be polite and practice gratitude for all help received. This for your own mental health. While it is extremely important to remain on good terms with trustworthy people who provide assistance, it is equally important to maintain a positive perspective. A meal at a soup kitchen isn’t fun, but it’s keeping you alive and well-enough fed to avoid a mindset of desperation. Desperate people make bad decisions. remain grateful, recognize the necessity in what little you receive and force yourself to believe that things will get better.
- The party isn’t worth it. I don’t care who is going to be there or how tired you are of talking to people, politely asking for help and getting verbally kicked-in-the-teeth for trying. Do not go to any parties or bars. If you are under-aged or if anyone there has illegal drugs and the police show up, you will find yourself on a fast train to prison. When you are homeless, association and prejudice are the law of the land. Without money, you can’t pay for a lawyer – and people who hate the homeless (of which there are many) know this. Avoid those circumstances like the plague.
- Remember your place. Frankly, it’s unfair and frequently degrading, but it’s reality. Review the expectations of Deserving VS Undeserving Poor and learn to play the game. Simply going out for a beer, and being seen by the decision-maker of XYZ nonprofit, can result in being denied for all sorts of necessary services. Being impolite to the wrong representative can trigger a cascade of nasty phone calls that will stretch out your homelessness and/or make your life significantly worse. There are many truly good people who are really and honestly trying to help people facing financial emergencies, poverty and homelessness. Sadly, there are also plenty of spiteful-gossips (and a few predators) employed by those same agencies. When you are homeless, you do not have the luxury of responding to nasty people in the manner in which they deserve.
- Trust no one: This applies to everyone but anyone under 21 must be doubly careful. There are nasty adults who will offer desperate children ‘help’ – and the result is far worse than sleeping on the streets. Be careful. Be very VERY careful.
Ages 0 to 12
- Ask your friends for help. Can you stay at their place for a while?
- Talk to your teachers and counselors at school. Ask for resources and suggestions for places to stay.
- Talk to coaches or youth workers at local community centers and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, the YWCA and your place of worship.
- Contact other family members and/or every trustworthy adult you can locate and ask for help. If you are going to be placed in foster care, then making contact with trustworthy family will significantly help your situation.
- If you are avoiding DHS and trying to stay out of foster care, then find other kids and team up. A child on the street alone is an easy target. Being properly housed and protected by trustworthy adults is better, but (when that’s not possible) there’s some safety in numbers.
- Contact government agencies. DHS (a state managed program falling under HHS) is not the only government agency offering assistance, Family and Youth Services Bureau has additional resources.
- Locate a youth shelter and get connected to their services. (Hopefully, they will have enough room for you to stay there instead of on the street). Sadly, there are far too few of these shelters available and many do not advertise. The local adult shelter will (should) know where these shelters can be found. (See blog post: Homeless Youth Shelters)
- Contact the adult shelters and talk to the people who work there. They will not even consider providing services or allowing you to sleep at the shelter (don’t be surprised) but they will have connections to the organizations that provide assistance to homeless children.
Ages 13 to 15
- Everything listed in Ages 0 to 12 applies to you.
- Find a job. You are now legally able to work a W-2 (legal, above-board) job. Do everything you can to get one.
- Get your GED. Dealing with homelessness and high school is both stressful and risky. With a GED you are legally eligible for a full-time job, which makes getting a permanent apartment (owned and paid for by you) significantly more possible. Missing out on high school can be a disappointment, but survival takes precedence. Completing a GED as soon as humanly possible directly (significantly) improves your chances of survival.
Ages 16 to 17
- Everything listed in Ages 0 to 15 applies to you.
- Get a drivers license and a car. Surviving homelessness is significantly easier when you have a car. Getting and keeping a job is also significantly easier when you have a car.
- Join Job Corps. Job Corps provides assistance, jobs and training. If you qualify, take advantage of the program.
- Research technical training programs. Don’t give up on the possibility of college, just plan to complete technical school first. This is long-term planning. being trained and certified as an automobile mechanic translates into immediate and reasonably well-paying work. A bachelors degree in art does not.
- Look for grants and scholarships. Talk to government agencies and social workers (and everyone else you can think of) and ask for help locating funds to pay for technical school.
- Look for a women’s shelter. If you are 16, female and running from an abusive situation, a woman’s shelters will (should) provide assistance.
- Contact an abuse hotline. If you are running from an abusive situation (regardless of gender) there are services available.
- Get Clean and Sober Housing. If you are recovering from an addiction, contact your local Oxford Houses and apply for the next opening. Each house is completely managed and financed by the recovering addicts living there.
Ages 18 to 21
- Everything listed in Ages 0 to 17 applies to you.
- Keep looking for youth shelters. Adult shelters will not admit people under the age of 21. Some will not admit people under the age of 22.
- Apply for work through targeted work programs like those offered by AmeriCorps, Volunteers of America, the Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and non-profit Restaurants.
- Apply for assistance. You are an adult, so applying for assistance through government agencies is a possibility. Start filling out forms and keep it up until you’ve applied for everything (EVERYTHING!).
Ages 22 and older
- Look for an adult shelter. Adult shelters will now admit you – and youth shelters will (literally) refuse to unlock the door if you come knocking. Contact an adult shelter and talk to the people who work there. If the shelter is safer than the street, try to get admitted.
- Get a car. Having a car greatly improves your ability to survive homelessness and get a job. If at all possible, get yourself a working and reliable vehicle.
- Get your GED. If you don’t have a high school diploma or a GED, then make it your top priority. Not having one will make life very difficult.
- Get Clean and Sober Housing. If you are recovering from an addiction, contact your local Oxford Houses and apply for the next opening. Each house is completely managed and financed by the recovering addicts living there.
- Apply for assistance. Start locating agencies and filling out forms. Keep it up until you’ve applied for everything (EVERYTHING!).
- Department of Human Services
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Community Action Partnership
- Social Security Administration
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
- Vocational Rehabilitation
- Catholic Worker Houses (community style living in actual houses. Contact the local Catholic Worker House to find out what, if anything, they have to offer.)
- Apply for the military. The military offers many benefits that are extremely helpful to people trying to get out of poverty. If you qualify and have a personality that is suited to the military, then it is an excellent choice. However, the military has a very specific and extreme culture. Not everyone is suited to the environment and early discharge does not look good on your record. If you realize the military is not a particularly good fit after joining, then do absolutely everything in your power to keep your nose clean. A dishonorable discharge is a HUGE BLACK MARK on your record. Employers rank this right up with a felony on your criminal record. Follow orders, remain polite and respectful and do not attend parties where drugs may be involved. Just be careful, finish your time, get an honorable discharge and move on with your life.
- Get a job. Everyone you encounter will give you this advice. It’s going to become annoying very quickly. Bite back your pride, proceed with the job search and target the highest paying work you have the qualifications and skills to perform.
- Apply for work through targeted work programs like those offered by AmeriCorps, Volunteers of America, the Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and non-profit Restaurants.
- Apply for Senior Assistance. Be honest about your age. If you are old enough to qualify for programs targeting seniors (housing, employment, medical, etc), then take full advantage.
Originally published: 05/01/2016
If you are truly trying to help someone facing a serious financial crisis and potential homelessness, then begin by familiarizing yourself with the realities of poverty. In the United States, there are resources available, but they are limited. Extremely limited. That means survival depends on multiple factors, including: 1) identifying available resources by researching local agencies and organizations, 2) applying for said resources and 3) finding alternative resources.
Anyone who has survived poverty or homelessness for any amount of time is acutely aware of the power held by those who make resource-distribution decisions, and the frequency with which said decisions are based on a subjective opinion about the recipient’s relative worth. This is an unfortunate reality born out of extremely limited resources. No matter how altruistic a social worker or non-profit volunteer is, when a program has enough money to cover the needs of 100 people and it receives 500+ applications, decisions must be made.
Also, keep in mind that many non-profits are provided opportunities to collaborate with wealthy benefactors or other organizations on a limited basis. These are purposely unadvertised programs made available to ‘hand picked’ clients. Effectively, they will examine the people who have applied for publicly advertised programs and select those who are considered a good fit.
For all of these reasons (and more), it is important to present the best possible argument for being selected as a recipient.
The following suggestions provide practical advice for helping a person survive poverty or homelessness while laying the groundwork for (re)establishing financial security. The links embedded within this post provide further information and additional examples directly related to the points covered.
- Deserving vs undeserving poor: The concepts of deserving vs undeserving poor are extremely important to understand. An examination of these terms can be found HERE. For the purposes of this blog post, remember the following: surviving homelessness or a financial emergency requires help. Finding a way out of these situations requires more help. Getting that help is heavily dependent upon convincing those controlling needed resources that you (or your friend) are deserving of assistance.
- Realities of poverty: Every region is different. Walk or drive around the area and take the time to actually see homeless people and low-income neighborhoods. Visit the homeless shelter. Research both resources available and news stories about the deaths of poor and homeless people in your area. Try to get a sense of what this person is actually up against, and then remind yourself that you will never truly understand what this is like until after you have lived it.
- Biographies and books: Another source of information are the biographies of people who have survived extreme poverty and nonfiction books about poverty and homelessness:
- Amazon.com list of biographies about people who survived poverty
- Amazon.com list of books about poverty
- Amazon.com list of books about homelessness
- Blog post about Homeless Youth Shelters
- Blog post about Service Projects Focusing on Homelessness
- Quotes and posts about Helping the Homeless
- Quotes and posts about Homelessness
- Quotes and posts about Poverty
Publicly Associate: Continue spending time together. Whenever possible, make a point of doing so publicly; here’s why:
- Lifts the spirits. This kind of crisis will send a perfectly healthy human being spiraling into depression. Simple and authentic acts of friendship can help fight the depression that inevitably comes from living with the stigma of poverty.
- Networking. It improves the possibility of positive networking, and that could lead to a job.
- Protection from predators. Surviving homelessness or poverty requires making alliances. Individuals without a support group or network are frequently targeted by predators.
- Deserving Image. It enhances the individual’s standing as a member of the ‘deserving poor.’
- Community. Provides access to and a sense of community, which has been proven to be a key factor in getting out of poverty.
Listen: Anytime someone you care about is faced with a crisis it is time to put on your listening ears and let them talk. Don’t judge, don’t get offended, and (for the love of Pete!) do NOT break confidences!
- Initial Crisis: Act as a supportive, confidential and reliable sounding board whenever this person needs it. This is a situation that will push every button a person has. Chances are very good that all sorts of angry words, profound thoughts, offensive opinions and absolute nonsense will come pouring out of their mouth. Just let it flow. When they return to their rational selves, gently help re-direct that energy into brainstorming possible solutions.
- As Time Passes: Like it or not, there are no quick fixes for financial problems. This is going to take time. How much time? It’s impossible to say – weeks, months, maybe even years. Keep listening. Sometimes listening is hard, but surviving is harder. Remember that.
Brainstorming: This is an activity that most helping professionals and assistance-providing-organizations actively and aggressively squelch due to a pervasive social-cultural belief that people in poverty must completely focus on taking any work offered for any amount of pay. This is the worst possible advice, and here’s why:
- Hope: Brainstorming all possibilities, no matter how outlandish, helps re-establish hope. Some things are not possible right now, but there’s always someday.
- Direction: Setting a long-term goal can help to clarify the next best move. The financial situation may be desperate right now, but that does not eliminate the possibility of reaching any number of life or career goals at some point in the future. in fact, if the person is able to identify a long-term goal, then looking for immediate opportunities that move in that general direction can both simplify and improve the employment-seeking process.
- Perspective: By seeing the actions taken in the immediate moment as steps on the path to a much different (better) place, the individual is able to achieve a more positive perspective overall. This is invaluable when writing resumes or sitting through interviews.
- Possibility: For some reason, brainstorming sessions have a way of making people more aware of opportunities. After taking some time to look at seemingly outlandish goals, something within immediate reach will be identified. A contact, a job posting, a passing conversation…any number of resources and leads will be revealed. It just requires allowing the mind to focus on what is possible.
- Toxic Work Environments: If an individual goes into the job-seeking process willing to “take anything from anyone in exchange for whatever paycheck is offered” then chances are very good that an unethical manager will use the opportunity to exploit the individual to the fullest possible extent. The end result? Job loss and a tarnished work record. Possibly worse.
Tangible Help: Helping out in small ways provides more than financial assistance, it lifts the spirits and establishes an ongoing sense of community. It makes taking that next step out of poverty possible.
It is your responsibility to identify what you are both willing and able to do. Therefore, I suggest sitting down and making two lists: a) things you can do in the short term and b) things you can do over the long-term (read: years). After you have clearly identified your own limits (to yourself), it’s time to take action.
How you communicate this information will depend on the person facing poverty/homelessness and your relationship. Sometimes simply showing up with a casserole is the best thing you can do. Other times, it’s better to discuss the available options ahead of time.
A few suggestions/examples:
- Make dinner once a week.
- Help with laundry.
- Offer to babysit.
- Provide access to a shower.
- Help establish a permanent mailing address.
- Regularly meet up for coffee and conversation.
- Research local agencies, organizations and shelters offering assistance. Make a few preliminary phone calls, inquiring about options and requirements.
- Network with people who know how to utilize the local resources for survival. Most people find good solid information through places of worship, community organizations, and 12-step programs. Ask the people in your own network of friends and family for recommendations about both resources and people who might know more about local resources.
Odd Jobs: Helping to identify and arrange temporary work is a valuable form of assistance. Whether it’s above-board, under-the-table or in-trade, odd jobs provide access to resources and opportunities:
- It enhances the individual’s standing as a member of the ‘deserving poor.’
- It qualifies as freelance work and/or self-employment which provides solid networking opportunities while helping to fill a time gap on a resume.
- It’s easier to find a job when you have a job.
All of the suggestions included here under “What Not To Do: apply to anyone going through a crisis. For more detailed information, look for workshops or books focused on helping people in crisis. Homelessness (potential or realized) is a crisis of enormous proportions. It involves grief, fear, anger, and many other emotions. Another source is books about helping people (or yourself) through a crisis:
- Amazon.com list of self-help books on helping people in crisis.
Platitudes: When a person is facing a crisis, the only thing they should be focused on is securing real, practical help. Saying things like ‘it will all work out,’ ‘god has a plan’ and ‘think positive’ aren’t particularly helpful. Before you speak, stop and ask yourself: who am I trying to comfort, me or them?
Accusations: Throwing on the guilt, expressing your opinion of purchases made in the past (near or distant), and lecturing on every single bad decision you believe this person has ever made is simply not helpful. Chances are very good these things are already running through their head (over and over). Focus on finding solutions for the immediate problem and planning for what lies ahead. Let your opinions of the past remain unspoken until a more appropriate time. Learn to accept the fact that this day may never come.
Minimize The Pain: Yes, it really is that bad. This person is going through a tough time and it hurts. Saying things like ‘stop whining,’ ‘cheer up’ or ‘look on the bright side’ while trying to insist that it’s ‘not that bad’ is not helpful. It IS bad. Pretending otherwise will only lead to more disaster. Learn to accept the discomfort.
Try to Fix It: There is nothing worse than false hope, particularly when it is immediately followed by the complete disappearance of the ‘friend’ who can’t handle the uncomfortable realization that this really and truly cannot be fixed. Accept reality and be brutally honest with yourself about what you can (or cannot) do. If you are a fixer by nature, keep your mouth shut and your ears open – there will be plenty of opportunities, usually on a smaller scale. It is your responsibility to 1) focus on identifying those things you truly have the power to change and 2) wait for it.
Hold a Fundraiser: This may seem counter-intuitive, but fundraisers and requests for donations or other financial assistance from individuals and similar private sources must be kept to a minimum and restricted to very specific and targeted goals. For example, if a person needs to pay back rent and child support in order to get a drivers license and, thereby, qualify for a job, a fundraiser may be in order. If there is no employment in sight, no money in the bank and no one really knows what to do, then a fundraiser is not the right place to begin. Here’s why:
- Expectations: People are accustomed to fundraisers run by huge non-profits, where a donation is made once or twice a year, an official thank you is provided with assurances that this donation has helped solve the problem, and everyone continues on their merry way (until next year). Similarly, everyone who donated will be expecting tangible, positive, and immediate results (e.g.: we gave you money, why isn’t this fixed?)
- Amount: In a real-life financial emergency, even the most successful fundraiser will only go so far. $10,000 may seem like a lot of money until you do the math: six (6) months of rent and utilities, plus childcare, and that money is gone. Add in food, transportation, and other essentials, and the time-frame covered is significantly reduced. Unless the fundraiser can eliminate the housing problem, it is better to pursue other avenues.
- Deserving Poor: The inevitable social backlash generated by a) accepting charity and b) not being pulled fully, completely and immediately out of poverty, will be extremely damaging over the long-term.
- Problem Solving: Focus on identifying both immediate needs and long-term solutions. Addressing the immediate without considering the long-term will result in failure.
Vocalize Your Classism: A few infuriatingly common examples of stereotype-based responses:
- I’m glad this happened to you and not me because you’ve been poor/homeless before, so you know how to handle this.
- I don’t have that problem; therefore, you must have done something wrong and/or there must be something wrong with you.
- I knew this was going to happen. My family told me you couldn’t handle living right. I knew you would be coming around asking for money. I never should have made friends with…one of you.
- I know a great therapist. I’m sure they can help you address the real problem. (Read: Financial emergencies are proof of mental illness.)
- Have you considered adoption? Obviously, you can’t handle being a parent. I know an adoption lawyer who makes loads of money, so you know they’re good people. (Note: Forced adoptions are commonly assumed to be a relic of the past. They are not. Adoption is a multi-million dollar industry and both illegal and unethical practices continue. Women and children in poverty are primary targets.)
- Have you considered taking a budgeting class? (Read: Financial emergencies are the result of financial or mathematical incompetence – it has nothing to do with low wages and high costs of living.)
- I thought you said you had a college degree. (Read: Higher education magically eliminates the possibility of future financial problems.)
- But you seem so smart. (Read: Financial emergencies are restricted to those with a substandard intellect.)
- But you seem so nice. (Read: Financial emergencies are restricted to those who participate in immoral or criminal activities.)
- Where’s your man? What kind of a woman are you if you can’t even land a man who can pay your bills?
- Have tried getting a job? (Note: Most people living in poverty or facing homelessness already have, and actively maintain, one or more jobs – in addition to spending a lot of time trying to survive.)
Most of the following actions are justified like this:
“This will force them to change. We have to force them to do what it takes to avoid being homeless, instead of taking the easy way out. We’re just giving poor people the kick in the pants they need to get ahead. This is helping.”
Let’s be clear about one thing, none of these actions will help anyone out of poverty or homelessness. In fact, most of them will seriously impede their ability to get back on their social and financial feet. For more research-based information on this fact, look into books about the Housing First method for addressing homelessness:
- Amazon.com list of books about Housing First
The decision to participate in any of the following isn’t about them – it’s about you.
Public Humiliation: I am forever amazed at the number of people who really and truly believe: a) poverty is a lifestyle choice and b) acts of public humiliation will force poor people to ‘choose another lifestyle.’ Using this logic, acts of public humiliation are deemed to be a form of HELP.
Before you jump on the opportunity to indulge your inner predatory high school mean-girl, take a moment to imagine yourself in the same situation. Consider all aspects of this individual’s reality and ask yourself this one question: how, exactly, does this HELP? In what way is the situation improved by my behavior?
Ostracism: “When you get back on your feet, call me,” is one of the most common acts of cruelty faced by people dealing with a financial crisis that could plunge them into poverty. If this friendship is based solely on class-association and enhancement of your own public image, then you are not a friend. Telling people that they will earn the prize of being allowed to associate with you, once they have returned to a proper financial status, is disturbingly classicist and disgustingly narcissistic.
It’s this same attitude toward class that leads members of the upper classes to treat poverty survivors as though they were living with a deadly and contagious disease. Treating poverty survivors with the disgust generally reserved for extremely filthy garbage, is sadistic. This does not have a positive effect on the problem – it merely inflates your own ego.
Gossip: Anyone facing a financial crisis is dealing with a world that is literally falling apart. The opportunities for viscous gossip will be plentiful and easily identified. Making up a juicy story out of the wreckage will do more than stir up a little dust and hurt a few feelings. The damage carries the potential for devastatingly permanent consequences. If you can’t keep it positive then remain silent.
Call The Boss: Employers are not charities. Employees who are facing serious financial difficulties are generally viewed as unreliable (at best) or a liability (at worst). This is a difficult conversation and a private one. It is the employee’s responsibility to speak with a boss/employer when and if necessary. It is unprofessional and unethical to disclose to a current or potential employer another person’s private information.
Call The Landlord: Informing a landlord of impending financial ruin will hasten the move to the street. Landlords are running a business, not a charity; they are not going to assist a tenant facing difficult times, they are going to eliminate a risky customer and make room for reliable income flow.
Call The Landowner: If this person is already on the street and squatting in a building or on private land, contacting the owner of said property will (most likely) result in an arrest and the beginnings of a criminal record. People do not generally choose to squat. Criminal records never increase the possibility of finding viable employment. This is not helping.
It must be pointed out that there are various Faux Poor communities who choose to squat. This is not to be confused with actual poverty. People who have the ability to leave a Money-less or Stripped Down lifestyle at any time they choose are not truly poor. They are frugal, which is admirable, but distinctly different from homelessness and poverty.
There is much to be said about the Faux Poor and the ways they affect Poverty Survivors, but that will have to wait until another day.
Call DHS: DHS is the Department of Human Services. Every state in the union has a DHS office, which is responsible for evaluating reports of abuse, removing children from abusive homes, placing children in foster care, etc. They do not help families locate financial assistance or address problems related to poverty. They examine a situation, determine whether or not there is reasonable cause to initiate an investigation and remove children from the care of parents or guardians.
- Poverty Is Not Abuse: If you are concerned about the effects of poverty upon the lives of the children, then calling DHS is not the right thing to do.
- Double Standards: Check your double standards. If you had to turn in everyone you knew who was doing [parenting action], how many people would be on that list? Are you going to report all of them, or is this limited to a specific category of people?
- Actual Abuse: If you have been keeping your mouth shut about a truly abusive situation because they had a nice home and a good paycheck, then a) report the abuse immediately and b) educate yourself about the realities of abuse – people with money do not get a free pass.
Assist a Stalker: Having money does not make a predator less dangerous. Being poor does not negate the right to live a safe and terror-free life. Owning property does not transform a manipulative and violent individual into a ‘good parent’ or a ‘good spouse.’
I have noticed that much of the advice given in the area of grief and bereavement is very appropriate and applicable to people surviving poverty or facing homelessness, for example:
“Research has shown that the more distressed the bereaved person appears to be, the more discomfort this will evoke in others, and the more they will avoid, derogate or blame the mourner. This means that those who are most in need of support may be least likely to get it.”
Offering Support to the Bereaved: What Not To Say, Grief and Loss Blog, PBS.Org, by Camille Wortman, PH.D.
“Unfortunately, many people associate tears of grief with personal inadequacy and weakness. Crying on the part of the mourner often generates feelings of helplessness in friends, family, and caregivers…Yet crying is nature’s way of releasing internal tension in the body and allows the mourner to communicate a need to be comforted. Crying makes people feel better, emotionally and physically.”
Common Myths About Grief, Center for Loss and Life Transition, Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
“In the end, most of the silly things we say to grieving people could be avoided if we simply keep our mouths shut. Silence is better than stupidity, I think. In some of these sayings, we mean well, but the sayings don’t effectively communicate our concern. In others of these, we’re not really concerned about the grieving person, we’re concerned with our own discomfort”
10 Things You Should never Say To A Grieving Person, MinistryMatters.com, Tom Fuerst
“Don’t let a fear you may say something foolish frighten you into saying nothing. Say something—then listen. Friends who are grieving don’t expect you to toss off some wise advice that will instantly wipe away their sadness. What they could use most from you is an open heart and time spent listening.”
Things No Grieving Person Wants to Hear (and What to Say Instead), Oprah.com, Scott Simon
More books about grief:
- Amazon.com list of books about grief
Originally published: 01/24/2016
Re-blog: Stealing to eat: London’s hungry criminalised for taking waste food from supermarket bins – http://wp.me/p40ccd-1Op
I am sure many people think that it is just criminals who are locked up for stealing. However, our society will lock people up for two weeks and fine them on average £150 for “stealing” the equivalent of a £15 food shop from supermarket waste bins. The obvious irony here is that if they had £150 they would not need to be looking for food in bins in the first place. Thus our society perpetuates its own problem…Surely the most economic solution would be for the police to issue the offender with a caution and direct them to the nearest food bank…Yet a further freedom of information request informed me that between 1st January and 31st December 2016, 2,823 people had been “proceeded against with a charge or summons where food property was stolen.”
When did the Poor become Deserving or Undeserving? – http://wp.me/p7s6Zl-8s
Who is more blameworthy: the young black kid who hustles on the street corner, selling weed to help his momma pay the rent? Or the college kid who deals drugs out of his dorm room so that he’ll have cash to finance his spring break? Who should we fear? The kid in the ’hood who joined a gang and now carries a gun for security, because his neighborhood is frightening and unsafe? Or the suburban high school student who has a drinking problem but keeps getting behind the wheel? Our racially biased system of mass incarceration exploits the fact that all people break the law and make mistakes at various points in their lives and with varying degrees of justification. Screwing up—failing to live by one’s highest ideals and values—is part of what makes us human.
–The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Walter made me understand why we have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent. A system that denies the poor the legal help they need, that makes wealth and status more important than culpability, must be changed. Walter’s case taught me that fear and anger are a threat to justice; they can infect a community, a state, or a nation and make us blind, irrational, and dangerous. I reflected on how mass imprisonment has littered the national landscape with carceral monuments of reckless and excessive punishment and ravaged communities with our hopeless willingness to condemn and discard the most vulnerable among us. I told the congregation that Walter’s case had taught me that the death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. The real question of capital punishment in this country is, Do we deserve to kill? Finally and most important, I told those gathered in the church that Walter had taught me that mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given. Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the undeserving. The people who haven’t earned it, who haven’t even sought it, are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion. Walter genuinely forgave the people who unfairly accused him, the people who convicted him, and the people who had judged him unworthy of mercy. And in the end, it was just mercy toward others that allowed him to recover a life worth celebrating, a life that rediscovered the love and freedom that all humans desire, a life that overcame death and condemnation until it was time to die on God’s schedule.
–Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
The following terms are drawn directly from Victorian Era British Law, but continue to be utilized here in the USA when addressing poverty in relation to society, politics, and resource options. For more details about these concepts read:
- Historic Look at Concept of Deserving vs Undeserving Poor on Legal History Miscellany
- Amazon.com list of books about workhouses.
If you are sensitive about stereotypes, Class Discrimination or Classism, the following descriptions may be hard to read; however, survival is dependent upon a clear understanding of reality, and this is what poverty survivors face today.
The Expectations: Words and phrases are commonly used to describe the ‘deserving’:
- Connected: Has family or community support or socially acceptable human connections.
- Entertaining: Fun. Makes people laugh. Useful at a social function or a party. Good source of entertainment.
- Complimentary: Makes people ‘feel good.’
- Polite: Makes people feel comfortable. Not scary. Does not swear or get angry.
- Good Person: Has well-behaved children. Lives a socially acceptable lifestyle. Participates in a socially acceptable religion. Holds appropriate religious or political views. Attends religious events. (Note: This is most applicable when interacting with members of religion-based charities.)
- Proud: Does not accept charity. Always physically clean and nicely dressed in well-maintained clothes. However, wearing clothes that appear to be new or expensive may bring into question the applicant’s actual level of need.
- Grateful: Goes out of their way to thank the individual or organization for the assistance. Makes the giver ‘feel good’ about the donation. Publicly complimentary of organization, services and persons involved.
- High Potential: Investing in this person presents the possibility of a success story for the charity or government organization.
The Image: Establishing and protecting a reputation is more important than most people realize.
- Resources: Decisions about who actually receives the resources provided by a wide variety of agencies are made by people. If the people making those decisions think an individual deserves help, the likelihood of help being provided significantly increases. Therefore, it is extremely important to foster a deserving image among helping professionals (e.g.: homeless shelter workers, government employees, social workers, etc.). Negative rumors spread by community members often get back to resource decision makers with destructive consequences.
- Employment: Finding a job while homeless or living in poverty requires overcoming the employer’s stereotypes about poor people. A positive reputation in the community at large and among helping professionals can be crucial.
- Housing: Housing is addressed separately and landlords managing properties serving homeless or low-income individuals do not follow the same rules or regulations as public assistance. If (when) the housing is no longer paid for by government agencies or non-profits, then the prejudices and expectations of regular-market landlords come into play. A positive reputation will directly affect the apartment seeking process.
- Police Harassment: All members of the lower class are considered suspect by the police. Those deemed ‘deserving’ are given slightly more latitude and respect by police officers. It will not stop the watchful-eye placed on all poverty survivors. It certainly does not eliminate the possibility of being detained, questioned and arrested for minor offenses including ‘loitering‘ and ‘trespassing,’ which are common excuses for rounding up homeless people and roughly translate into being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, being identified as deserving by the police does increase the possibility of falling below the proverbial radar, which reduces the possibility of being arrested.
This is a label that must be avoided whenever and wherever possible. The following words and phrases are commonly used to describe the ‘undeserving’:
- Ungrateful: Thinks he or she is owed something. Does not express appropriate levels of thanks or gratitude for assistance.
- Scary: Angry personality. Negative attitude. Overly aggressive verbal or physical habits. Makes respectable people ‘feel unsafe.’
- Not Fun: Does not make people laugh. Boring. Depressing. Not good at networking or entertaining.
- Bad Person: Lives a socially unacceptable lifestyle. Follows an unacceptable religion. Has made bad decisions, particularly when there are children involved.
- Lazy: Not interested in working or getting a job. Poor work ethic.
- Low Potential: Investing in this person will not result in a success story for the charity or government organization.
- Criminal: Thief, drug dealer, con artist, not-trustworthy and generally incapable of living an honest life. Maintains a ‘criminal‘ appearance.