Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Poor are Us

On Monday of this week, a mother and her grown daughter, a household that I know pretty well, came to see me at the office. It wasn't a casual visit.

They came because they needed food.

They were not homeless. The mother worked, the daughter had been laid off from her job. And they needed food.

Its the general misconception that the people who visit our food pantry are destitute or homeless. Nothing could be further from the truth. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are a few who fit those categories, but for the most part they are families. They are elderly. Most of them work, or receive some other form of assistance, but they are trying to make ends meet and they can't afford groceries.

Has it gotten worse since economic downturn? You be the judge:

In January, when we were being assured that the economy was sound, Central Dallas Ministries served more than 4400 individuals and more than 2500 families - that's about 1100 more individuals than in January 2007 and 600 families.

Last month more than 5000 individuals came to us for groceries, and almost 3000 families.
In 2007 we served 44,800 individuals and 27,900 families. By September's end we've already served more than 40,000 families and more 23,000 families! Only 9000 of the individuals and 1600 families who came to CDM for groceries, are counted as 'unduplicated' - people and families who are not repeat visitors.

This means monthly, there are individuals and families who cannot afford to put to food on the table.
Times are tough.
It's very easy to caricature those who are poor. Certainly, lack of education, communities of concentrated poverty, missed opportunities play a part in persistent poverty. But to objectify the poor and to be judgmental about 'why' they are poor, and what they 'should do', is often much easier to look at them, and to see that they are no different than the rest of us.
It took courage for these two women to come and tell me that they couldn't afford groceries. What about those people do who don't ask?

I realized once again, what some of those who criticize the poor either tend to forget or don't know: the poor are us!

1 comment:

belinda said...

Indeed! But for the grace of God there go I . . .