What Poverty Looks Like

Can we evolve our perspectives on what is poverty.

When asked “what does a homeless person LOOK like”, do you describe what YOU see (eg, mental illness), or do you describe what it looks like to not afford a home? Notably, the latter doesn’t intrinsically have any ‘look’. People who can’t afford a home don’t have any stereotypical ‘look’.

To the contrary, if only homeless people had mental illness, there wouldn’t be a corporate incentive to produce helpful medicines for psychiatric issues.

Disassociate poverty from mental illness.

You might live in a tough neighborhood or you know people who live in a tough neighborhood. Maybe your experience with those neighborhoods is to associate poverty with violence.

However, when we look at the history of mankind, real wars – marked by extreme violence – are rarely fought between poor people. In World War II alone… 60 MILLION people died.  Such levels of violence had absolutely nothing to do with poor people.

Disassociate poverty from violence.

Equally important, wealth is not what we see. There’s general awareness that “physicians are the highest income earners”.  Indeed, Americans are willing to pay higher than average fees for the hope of adding years to our lives with reduced pain and discomfort. However, we’ve shown over and over how very low income workers can attain a high net worth.

The WalMart Cashier Millionaire

Disassociate wealth from income.

And we’re commonly taught that college graduates earn more than non college graduates, and people who earn a graduate degree earn even more than college graduates. Meanwhile, now trending at all time levels is the hot topic of student debt in America.

If net worth is ‘assets minus liabilities’, and student debt is a large liability held by people who have delayed ANY annual earnings  for potentially decades, then we CAN NOT recommend collegiate education with the bait of a rosier financial outlook.

Disassociate wealth from the attainment of formal education.

Our conclusion – and hoping you have reached the same conclusion…

Most people in poverty:

  • do not have mental illness.
  • are not violent.
  • may actually periodically earn a high income.
  • and, they may have college education, even graduate education.

If you see someone with no visible psychiatric issues, they haven’t given you any cause for safety concerns, they may periodically earn a high income, and have completed formal education, it’s possible and likely that they could be in poverty. 

Today is Thanksgiving 2017.

As we’re about to take our clothes and extra plates of dinner to the homeless shelters, let’s acknowledge that it is highly possible that MOST of the homeless people are not at the homeless shelter. Otherwise, we end up misdirecting our support, policies, time, attention, and resources as a country, to the wrong beneficiaries.

A Seattle city councilperson said that the #1 cause of homelessness is simply affordability. Not mental illness. Not criminality. Not unemployment.

How to Solve Homelessness

We pause for a moment today, to reflect on how we can come to the aid of America’s less fortunate.

If you are not in poverty, you have lots for which to be thankful. Consider finding any viable ways to IDENTIFY people in poverty and invest into them directly.

We’re happy to work with you on developing such a program, using your access to wealth, either nationally or locally.

*Update – 12/5/17*

Congress seeks to end the public service student loan forgiveness program.

We encourage and support proposals such as this, that will gradually encourage people to pursue education that they can afford, opposed to educational curricula they can not afford.

Author: pH14 Plan Staff

pH14 Plan is an economic development model for all U.S. households' participation. You can support this research by subscribing for more access, or contact us to make a gift.

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