2011's must-read story on poverty

Poverty has become a statistic. An alarming statistic, an oft-quoted statistic.

We know that one in six Americans are now poor. And while that’s shocking, it’s not as shocking as the stories those Americans have to tell. This morning, I read one of the most profound pieces on American poverty after the Great Recession, put together by Associated Press writers from all over the nation. If there’s only one thing you read on this topic this year, read, “Behind the poverty numbers: real lives, real pain.”

Here’s a short excerpt, but I really urge you to read the whole thing. It’s moving, poignantly written and courageous.

… in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, dozens of families lined up patiently outside the Willow Creek Care Center as truckloads of food for the poor were unloaded.

Among those waiting was Kris Fallon of nearby Palatine, mother of a teen and an infant, who hitched a ride with a friend.

She recounted how she and her husband–once earning nearly $100,000 a year between the two of them–lost their jobs, forcing them to move from their rented home into an apartment and give up their car.

“We fight a lot because of the situation,” she said. “We wonder where we are going to come up with money to pay rent, where we are going to get food, formula for the baby.”

She began to cry.

“I never understood why there were so many food pantries and why people couldn’t just get on their feet and get going, but now that I’m in it, I fully understand,” she said. “I sometimes feel like I am a loser … I have never been unemployed, and I never thought I would be going through this, ever.”

Her husband, Jim, 43, said he’s looked for jobs all over the country in the past two years, and just accepted an offer of a three-month stint in Paducah, Ky., on a hotel reconstruction project.

“Leaving for a job out of state for three months is what I have to do,” he said. “It’s terrible but it’s our reality … I guess this is the new America.”

Seven stories in this article share the reality of an America we don’t want to face, one that I think we barely recognize. I’m grateful for the courage of the people in the article for sharing their stories and for the Associated Press for printing something much more difficult to understand that just a statistic.

© Community Renewal Society 2011

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