Letters to the Editor
Readers write about immigration reform and life in poverty.
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In response to the recent article on Adam Shepard's homelessness project: As an African-American living in an urban community, I take personal offense at the following remark, "Am I going to continue to go out to eat and put rims on my Cadillac? Or am I going to make some things happen in my life...?"Skip to next paragraph
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This assumption that poor people are that way because they are lazy, bad money managers, or are spending their money on frivolous "luxuries" echoes the voice of many of the ignorant privileged.
I know single mothers who struggle just to provide the basic needs for themselves and their families, let alone eat out at McDonald's or purchase a car when public transportation is available. Is there really a way to test being poor when you have a safety net?
Regarding the recent article on Adam Shepard's book: I found myself not commending this young man who set out to test the American dream, but worrying about the implications of the experiment. What is not addressed in the article, thus presumably not addressed in the experiment, is Mr. Shepard's gender, ethnicity, and mental health.
I am left wondering if Shepard knew the statistics, that almost half of homeless people in America are estimated to be African-American, while only about 40 percent of the homeless population is estimated to be white. That's hardly proportionate to the country's population. Almost one-quarter of the homeless population is mentally ill.
I don't mean to be overly critical, and I do think it was an interesting project to take on. I just hope that the results do not lead people to believe that all homeless people just need to suck it up, get a job, and bring themselves out of poverty, because that's just not how it works. Homelessness and poverty are two things that are tied to other very large and overpowering problems in this country. I would hate for that to be overlooked in this well-meaning but flawed experiment.
Regarding the article on Adam Shepard's experiment in poverty: If I remember Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed," she also said most people could do okay with a minimum-wage job if no one in their family gets sick. But if you get sick, you fall down a hole. And even Mr. Shepard abandons his experiment when a member of his family gets sick. It's just that most people can't abandon their "experiment."
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