Where wealth, want live side by side
(Page 2 of 2)
Still, there is an eagerness among the poor to work, even for low wages.Skip to next paragraph
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``I don't get nothin' from the government,'' says Neather Witter, who owns a trailer next to the house that her father, former construction worker Ernest Poacher, built for himself and his wife, Janie. ``I always try to have a job,'' she says.
Yet after working seven years as a cook at a restaurant, she still earns barely above minimum wage. She brings home $138 a week, and pays a monthly mortgage on her trailer of $133. ``Sometimes I can just survive,'' she says. Her two children are grown, but she still cannot afford to buy a car.
As in other popular retirement areas across the nation, the population growth of Beaufort County has caused a land rush. The poor who own land are increasingly selling it off to developers who build hotels or condominiums that sell for up to $500,000 or more. For the poor, it is a lifetime chance to make a lot of money. But without proper investment of the sale proceeds, the money can slip away, say some black leaders here.
Emory Campbell, who runs the Penn Center, a local community agency aimed at helping the poor, would prefer to see blacks negotiate long-term leases with developers, retaining ownership of the land and a steady income. Also needed are more adult literacy programs, more job training and placement efforts, and enrichment programs for schoolchildren to help stimulate their desire to learn, such as visits to museums and more tutoring help, says Campbell.
But there are still many poor neighborhoods not yet touched by the land rush. Kendley and Rosa Williams, married 43 years, live in one such neighborhood. Their family income is about $530 from SSI and about $30 a month in food stamps. Although there is little material wealth, a visitor to their small home, which they built themselves, quickly realizes they have a great deal of love.
Christmas and greeting cards decorate one wall of their living room, also serving as a layer of insulation, a community worker notes. A large tapestry of the Last Supper covers another wall. Several throw rugs are on the linoleum floor.
Mr. Williams, partly paralyzed since a teen-ager and totally blind since two years ago, feels his way in from the kitchen to his chair in the living room. Asked about poverty, he smiles and answers in a booming voice: ``This is one of the poorest homes in the community.'' But, he says: ``I'm thankful for what I got. And I ask God to lead, guide, and correct me.''
His wife comes in from the kitchen where she has been baking a cake. ``I've been in poverty all my days,'' she says. ``I just thanks the Lord to be alive. I wouldn't know what to do with a lot of money.'' They hold hands as a photographer takes their picture.
In order to get a regular supply of water and indoor plumbing, Williams convinced his dozen or so neighbor familes to contribute $20 each to have a deep well dug a decade ago. The pump and pipelines, as well as some renovations to his house, were paid for by the Beaufort-Jasper clinic.
The clinic was once headed by Thomas Barnwell, who helped bring national attention to the issue of malnutrition here. About two- thirds of the clinic's work, including community improvement projects, is funded through federal programs. The federal money has been steadily cut back during the last several years. Chart Percent of people in US living below the poverty line
Not counting assistance Counting cash value of assistance* 1979 1.7 10.0 1980 13.0 11.4 1981 14.0 12.6 1982 15.0 13.7 1983 15.2 14.0 *Food stamps, housing subsidies, welfare, and other government aid
In a table on Page 3 of Monday's editions, a number was inadvertently dropped. The proportion of people living below the poverty level in 1979, when public assistance is not counted, should have been 11.7 percent. ----30--