Thursday, September 22, 2005

Simulation Poverty

I don't know how many times a day or week I tell people I'm poor. I know I'm not actually poor. I'm not impoverished. I don't live on the streets and dig in dumpsters. So, I came up with a slant on the claim of being poor. Now I say, "I'm not poor, I'm indebted." In fact, that saying is more true than I could ever know.

Myles wrote a post recently about attempting to simulate poverty based on the HHS 2004 Poverty Guidelines. While an admirable challenge, I find at least one major flaw in his effort: it is an effort.

You see, I've worked with the poverty-stricken for a number of years now and if there's one thing I've learned from it all, it is this: circumstance plays such an enormous part of poverty. I have spoken to many men and women who have found themselves on the street and I only know of one who has really made an effort stay there. Granted, many men and women who find themselves on the street may give up trying to get off of them; they might succumb to the feeling that fate has cast them aside, but mostly, there is some attempt to rise above poverty.

Whether they be victims of natural disasters (such as the Katrina victims), drugs, alcohol, failed marriages, overwhelming hospital bills or run-aways from physical abuse, there's a feeling among a majority of the homeless and impoverished that poverty has beset them. They did not seek out poverty, it landed upon them. This leads to an attitude no simulation can ever replicate. It's the difference between being hit by a drunk driver and driving yourself into a pole. Both are tragic, but one is a choice and the other inflicted.