Face of Poverty

Most people describe poverty as a lack of essential items, such as food, clothing, and shelter. When individuals are not able to afford nutritious meals, attend school regularly, or have access to health care, regardless of their income, they can be considered to be in poverty. The new face of poverty involves many people who are homeless because problems that arose, or unforeseen circumstances occurred, forcing them into these situations. In the essay, “The Untouchables,” Kozol wrote about the struggles and hardships Richard Lazarus and others encountered because of homelessness.

Jo Goodwin Parker wrote a vivid first hand description about living in poverty in the essay, “What is Poverty? ”. Lazarus lived on the street struggling to survive, where as, Parker lived in a house struggling to support her family. In New York, Lazarus either slept in a park or in a dilapidated hotel operated by a shelter organization. Other homeless people, unable to find room in a shelter or afraid of something within the shelter, seeked sanctuary in public transportation buildings, subway tunnels, or church doorways. Parker struggled to provide anything but the bare essentials for her family.

She lived without hot water, soap, shampoo, hand cream for cracked red hands, or materials to do any repairs on the unkempt, decrepit house. Each night, she washed all the clothes her school aged children possessed, in cold water, hoping they would be dry for the next school day. Lazarus felt the American public looked at homelessness as “the rejected waste of society”(263). He feels the homeless were useful when performing menial tasks or donating blood. He thinks people living in regular homes may not complain about their current situation if they see homeless people and fear they could be in the same state of affairs.

In the same way, Parker said, “Poverty is looking into a black future”. She feared for her children’s future imaging them being behind bars because they could steal for things they wanted. She also feared her children could turn to drugs and alcohol to escape the grip of poverty. She also feared her daughter may end up in the same poverty lifestyle. Parker also felt poverty eroded away one’s pride and honor. Both Parker and Lazarus landed in these situations because of circumstances beyond their control. Parker married young and moved to another town with her new husband.

Losing his job forced them to move into a small rundown house in her old hometown. Parker’s husband worked a few odd jobs, but most of their money went toward food. After three years, and three babies, he left, leaving her to support the family. Lazarus received an education from a private military school, and then held a job in data processing for seven years. Lazarus then lost his job, his wife, his children, his home, and then became homeless. These two people exemplifies the new face of poverty. The attitudes of the American public toward helping Lazarus and the homelessness, and people like Parker living in poverty, have eroded.

Kozol writes, “So from pity we graduate to weariness; from weariness to impatience; from impatience to annoyance; from annoyance to dislike and sometimes to contempt” (265). Treatment of the homeless in most cities have became harsh. An anti-homeless activist in Phoenix stated he was “tired of feeling guilty about the homeless”(Kozol 262). A columnist from a major magazine wanted the homeless evicted from the streets. When Parker asked for help, she received seventy-eight dollars a month to clothe, feed, and provide shelter for herself and three children.

Attitudes toward the poor have evolved into indifference, or worse, hatred. In contrast, these essays are about the asperities of a man and a woman. The essay about Lazarus recounted the plight of a homeless man and the public negativity toward homelessness. Although this story portrayed one of misfortune, compassion for the fellow man was buried by those holding bias toward homelessness. The essay about Parker summarized the misfortunes of the life of a woman. This woman struggled to provide for her three children. Most of the people living in poverty are currently in this situation due to unfortunate circumstances.