Thursday, April 20, 2017

Student reacts to housing instability as depicted in Two Dollars A Day and the Poverty Myth podcasts.

In session four of our social welfare policy classes we were asked to listen to different podcasts relating to immigration policy, political perspectives, and poverty myths. The Radio Lab is known to explore different issues that are going on in the world and sometimes use personal testimonies so that we as an audience get a real understanding. The poverty myths podcast stood out to me most because of the touching stories that were being told. Margaret Smith was interviewed to prove the myth of the safety net. After listening to her interview I had many different opinions on how her situation could have been different. Here are a few of them:
  1. How could her landlord have handled the situation differently?
  2. A policy implemented for temporary housing
  3. Her job understanding the situation in which she was placed
After Margaret’s son was shot on the property of their home, the landlord issued an eviction notice for three days. I do understand that there was some sort of agreement in the beginning on the lease that any kind of crime committed on the property will result in an eviction. However, in the situation here someone was a victim, and it was unexpected. The tenants didn’t commit the crime, they were the victims. You would think that there could have been some sort of extension so that she would not have to split her family up. How was it possible for her to be able to move out of her home comfortably when she was dealing with her son being in the hospital? This places more stress on someone who already has to deal with almost losing a loved one, and to now have to find somewhere for her entire family to stay is an outrage against human decency.

Margaret had to send some of her children to live with family members while the two youngest stayed with her at the shelter. What strikes me is that welfare policies are supposed to be concerned for someone’s safety. However, having two young children in a shelter is unsafe, and the children are suffering from the essential need of having a safe home to live in. The issue could have been brought to court and maybe been appealed because of her position. I do understand that she was responsible for having the children, however she was in no fault for the shooting that occurred.
Her job was unable to hold her position and she was fired. Margaret should have never been let go in the first place. It seemed as if all social forces were working together to steadily knock her down further and further. This placed her in the situation of not being able to provide for her family. So this supports the earlier myth on this episode that all poor people are lazy. Margaret is willing and wanting to work, however she is not able to do so. 

The story of Margaret reminds me of the book we are currently reading by Edin & Shaefer, “Two Dollars a Day”. The character Madonna is currently being oppressed into poverty and not being able to be above the poverty line. Madonna is constantly trying to work towards something good and others place her in the situation where she cannot provide for herself or  her daughter Brianna. “She fell behind, and her landlord, usually willing to work with a tenant in a tough situation, used the opportunity to get rid of a troublemaker” (Edin & Shaefer, 2016). She was evicted from her apartment and had to bounce from one family members’ home to the next with her daughter Brianna. Madonna was not able to have any assistance to help her with her daughter and received unemployment, but it did not compare to how much she made when she was employed.

Both of these women have social forces working together that target how their success will be. This helps to disprove the myth that people in poverty simply are lazy. Not all people who are poor will look for a handout, but on the contrary, many would rather try to get out and work. How are they able to make their situations better when they are simply being turned away from every program that they apply for? I believe that we have discussed in class many provisions that could be implemented so that there should be equal distribution for those who are in need. This class has opened me up to be able to see the errors in many of our social welfare programs.

Edin, K., & Shaefer, H. L. (2016). $2.00 a day: living on almost nothing in America. Boston: Mariner Books.

One of the persistent problems we face in working to end poverty is the myth that the poor deserve to be poor.  Like most people, my concern with fairness is balanced with my concern for compassion, so that I think it’s right that some people “deserve more” and some people “deserve less”, but in order to give everyone a fair chance to show what they are capable of doing, some floor of material consumption ought to be provided to everyone, whether they are deserving or undeserving.  In other words, I don't object to relative deprivation so long as the poverty/deprivation does not interfere with people's rights to housing and a home, access to culture and work (they must have access to adequate transportation), freedom from desperate want (they must have access to medical care and nutritious food), and participation in public life (their relative deprivation must not prevent them from attending some public events, engage in socialization with friends and neighbors, participate in politics, and use public services such as libraries). As we learned from Edin and Shaefer, and as you argue in your reaction paper, Americans generally seem comfortable with allowing a severe level of absolute deprivation in which people are insecure in their housing, and transportation access is unstable so that some may be prevented from gaining or keeping a job, and food access isn't really so dependable either.  This creates a situation of desperation and injustice.  Just as we ought to be morally outraged and inspired to act in the public realm to change matters if we learn that our justice system punishes many innocent persons and some of  our public safety professionals harass many law-abiding citizens, so too we should be engaged in transformational action when we are aware of many innocent persons who are pushed into lives of such instability and absolute deprivation. Our current system is short-sighted and unjust.  Edin and Shaefer put emphasis on this point of housing insecurity in their $2 A Day, and that seems right.  We have no mandatory program providing housing to people, even when we recognize that everyone has a right to a home. Thus, we allow landlords to evict crime victims from their residences because they were victimized on the landlord’s property.  Incredible.

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