A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.
By R. Sidney Majurie
Poverty continues to challenge humankind during the twenty-first century. Last century, the world shared its wealth less fairly and less equally than it did at the end of the century before. The boundaries between wealth and poverty among the countries, and inside the cities of these same countries, have radically changed. They are no longer stable and immovable.
I had the opportunity to study poverty with the help of the Grave family–a local family stricken by the plight of the poverty epidemic. The husband, David*, works forty hours a week at $7.15/hr, to support the family while his wife stays home to take care of their two sons, Steven (age 2) and Tyler (age 4). Even though David works forty hours a week, he doesn’t have the benefits of a full-time worker. He and his wife, Amy, have no medical insurance, and they can only pray that the day never comes when they’ll need it. They do everything in their power to keep a safe and clean environment for their family in hopes of postponing any medical emergencies. only through sheer determination and luck have they been able to ward off such problems up to the present time. After the rent of $500 is paid along with the electric bill of $96.18, they don’t have much money left. The Graves are adamant about keeping emergency funds available, so every month they stash away a meager amount of money for medical expenses and clothing. They buy their clothes at their neighborhood thrift store, so a small amount suffices. They also budget $300 monthly for groceries at the store where David works. The store frequently has great deals as it is a discount store that has cheap, generic products. David had always been a customer at the store, even before he lost his previous job in construction and couldn’t find work. He noticed the “Now Hiring” sign in the store’s window one afternoon.
Although their food budget may appear dire to outside eyes, the Graves will tell you they can afford to eat pretty well with what they have. They are even able to afford a home telephone that costs them $25 a month. With all the competition with cell and broadband phones, land-line based phones are significantly dropping their prices. This is a welcome occurrence for a struggling family who needs a contact line in case of emergency. The small apartment in which they live is in one of the so-called “bad” neighborhoods, but they believe they were lucky to get a two-bedroom apartment at all in Tampa for the rent they pay. It is a decent shelter. Tyler starts school next year. This will alter their budget somewhat, but David and Amy seem ready for the challenge. Since they are an intact family, they are ineligible for AFDC or food stamps; so that means no free lunch for Tyler. “He really likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and we can get bunches of bananas for really cheap from David’s store,” Amy relays with a smile. “We don’t have the best of things or all the things that we want, but we always make sure that we have everything that we need.” obviously the Graves are tempting fate. It would only take a small, unexpected expense to crumble their fragile system. I hope for their sakes that that time will never come. The Graves are not alone in their struggles. millions of Americans face this very crisis daily. Poverty is an epidemic that strikes severely in the heart of this country and needs definitive and immediate attention. It is imperative that systems be formed to slow down, and perhaps eventually wipe out, this burgeoning plague on humanity. only through sheer will and determination can a real solution to this problem be found. The government should make it their goal to keep children such as little Steven and Tyler from succumbing to the abysmal fates of perpetual inherited poverty.
(*All names have been changed for discretion)