Thursday, October 20, 2005

One step away

Karl Martino via Philly Future has put out the call to help break the cycle of homelessness by supporting Project H.O.M.E. Despite his unease at discussing his own experience of growing up in poverty, he continues to share his painful history in order to paint an accurate picture of the many faces of poverty and homelessness. Compared to Karl and many others I've been fortunate, but I'm all too familiar with the once rare but now all to common fear of losing our home.

While my brother and I were in school (early- mid 80s, when we had such a great economy) my dad went through a bankruptcy after his business went under. As a man in his 50s with only a HS diploma, he could not find a decent job to save his life. The family lived on my mother's pittance of a salary and what my father could bring in from whatever job he could get. I was just old enough to be aware of what was going on and that one more setback could have destroyed my family's very tenous grasp on our facade of a lower middle class existence. We were the working poor, living from hand to mouth without frills like health insurance (major medical was all we could afford and my parents company's were so small no benefits were offered).

My brother and I both worked part time jobs after school to pay for things we wanted, clothes and save for college; we also both worked our way through college. My brother was able to attend a small private college through scholarship. I went to what was one of the least expensive [public] universities in the country at the time with a year long break in the middle during which I worked two jobs to save money so I could work only part-time while I completed my last two years. I'm not sure I can adequately describe how this has affected my personal life as an adult. Suffice it to say, I was unable to really commit to any relationship until I was in my late 20s/early 30s and was absolutely certain I could support myself without any assistance. Actual consideration of the possibility of raising a child was delayed until I was absolutely sure I would be able to single-handedly be able to support a family of 4 should I end up in a position similar to my mother's and/or support children as a single parent (through death or divorce) if necessary because I can not forget the hard lessons of my childhood.

Poverty and homelessness has many causes and are not necessarily the fault of those affected. Common sense dictates that men and women alike need to be empowered and educated to in order to avoid these experiences and recover from potentially devastating setbacks. Those who demand we return to a traditional family as defined by their interpretation of scriptural law are blissfully ignorant that, even back in what they considered the "good ol' days", many women did have to work to support/help support their family afford basic neccessities; they willfully disregard that the regimes they support have destroyed the dreams of job security & affordable healthcare for all who need it. That sort of fundamentalism is neither empowering nor supporting of those who need assistance through no fault of their own - it is overwhelmingingly punitive, judgmental, degrading and, when mandated, dangerous.

My family was fortunate that we never slipped into the abyss. Karl had the tools that enabled him to help himself, countless others do not. It's high time we take a look at the vast array of those in need followed by a long, hard look in the mirror.

Tags: ; ; ; ; ;

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: