Tired of being stuck in poverty rut, one man rebelled and pushed free

Working for ``peanuts'' gave Lincoln Barrett the incentive to go to college and try to break out of poverty, he recalled here recently. He had been employed as a salesman in Maryland for a uniform rental company, but his income dried up after he started running out of new clients. Then he moved here and was hired by TAP, a community action antipoverty program, as a housing counselor in 1975. His salary: $7,000 a year.

``I was in a rut, spinning my wheels,'' he said of his financial situation then. So in 1976 he returned to college again and this time graduated, with a degree in sociology. One of the things he studied was the cycle of poverty.

TAP helped him obtain a Farmers Home Administration loan (only 1 percent interest) to buy a modest home on a quiet, residential corner on the outskirts of Roanoke.

After college Barrett washed dishes in a Veterans Administration hospital, then transferred to work as a VA file clerk at $8,000 a year. His big move was into his current job as a VA housing loan officer.

Today, he and his wife, a secretary, together earn about $31,000 a year. They have two children, a son, 15, and a 17-year-old daughter who Barrett says is ``burning with the desire to go to college.''

Racial and sexual discrimination hold a lot of people in poverty, he says.

But another reason many remain poor, he says, is that they are ``satisfied'' being on welfare. ``If they'd rebel against it, they'd get out of it,'' he says.

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