VIDEO: Poverty 101 – Misconceptions about poverty


Speaker 1:
I feel like it’s half circumstance and half choice, and you still have the ability to go out and go to school and go to work, if that’s what you really want to do, to pull yourself out of poverty. But as far as like being born into it, that’s kind of out of our hands.

Speaker 2:
In my opinion, I don’t think it’s usually a choice but it definitely can be.

Speaker 3:
I think it’s all about your will to work, your determination sometimes.

Speaker 4:
Some people choose to stay in that life form, and some people choose to seek help and seek the steps to getting out of it.

Speaker 5:
I think we need a lot of more people to lift people up and to walk with them through their situations to get them out of poverty.

Andrew Green:
What do you guys, when you think about, kind of just, major misconceptions about people in poverty, what do you hear? What have you had yourself, misconception wise?

Phil Edwards:
Yeah, I would say people believe that poor folk are poor because they’re lazy. So, they have a poor work habit, and others would say a misconception of poverty would be that they are really unmotivated or poor people are weak minded individuals.

Tim Streett:
I think that’s definitely true. I think, probably the one we deal with the most in Shepherd is probably the belief that poverty is simply defined by money, and that the primary difference between middle-class folks and people in poverty is just a lack of money.

Tim Streett:
I mean, there will be those things you talked about, but among the people who don’t hold that opinion, they would say the primary difference is just the lack of money. And, we just know from our experience, everybody who works with the issue of poverty works with people who’ve lived in poverty, particularly those in generational poverty, understand that money is only a part of it. The people who are middle-class have assets and resources, that many assets and resources that people in poverty do not.

Tim Streett:
And the problem is, the reason that’s a big problem, is that oftentimes, if you look at welfare, it was basically giving money to people in poverty, because if you define poverty as simply a lack of money, that’s an easy solution, all we have to do is give them money. But 50, you know, 70 years of welfare, and since 1979, the poverty rates been going up and so we can see that intervention of money doesn’t really make a difference.

Tim Streett:
We know that there are so many things that people in the middle-class possess that the people in poverty don’t and if we don’t empower our families to have those other resources, and we talk about them all the time. Things like emotional strength and mental ability and physical ability, but also support systems and relationships and role models. If we don’t empower our families with those things, then a financial intervention doesn’t really help. And if we just give people money, it doesn’t really make much of a difference. And in our work really, because the more of those assets you have, the more stable your life is, and the more stable your life is, the better opportunity your children have to be future-oriented, to think about their future and to have a brighter future. If all of today’s needs are met, I can think about the future, but if every moment of my life is in survival mode, I can’t really get any traction.

Andrew Green:
We see a lot of neighbors spending a lot of time in survival mode. And that tyranny of the urgent of what’s immediate for today that I need to take care of, which makes complete sense that, why think about the future? Well, not only can I not think about the future because I’ve got so many things on my mind about today.

Tim Streett:
And you know, when you use the term ‘tyranny of the urgent’ with business people, they understand because they all understand what the tyranny of the urgent is. Which is, I get to the end of the day and I was really busy, but I didn’t really do anything. I didn’t really accomplish anything and everyone wants a good experience that day. And so they begin to understand what it means, well imagine living every day of your life like that. Every day of your life, never really get any work done on that thing that’s due in the future or that report that’s due Friday, and you become basically an unproductive person. Well, if you live your whole life in that survival mode, you really can’t get any traction from the future.