What does poverty look like?

You can’t see it, not reliably. Not if you don’t know what to look for. Many working people are in poverty. Many young people trapped in expensive renting situations and unable to get mortgages, are struggling with poverty. For many, it’s not where you end up all the time, just something you fall into the month there’s an unexpected bill or a setback. A person can have a good coat and not be able to afford to eat this week.

Our stories about poverty are often othering. They’re about people who are not like us, who live in almost Victorian conditions that they have brought upon themselves – it’s a mad sort of story, but there we are. People horrified by refugees and homeless folk with mobile phones, because they don’t fit the story. People oblivious to the folk around them who are marginalised, because when you sound educated, you don’t fit the poverty story.

We need to be kinder to each other. If we put down our assumptions about how poor people look, dress, and spend their time, we might more readily see what’s around us.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “What does poverty look like?

  • Barney Rubble

    Forming community is important again now

  • parneetsachdev

    You are right. The subaltern need a voice

  • Exploratory Druid

    There is a lot of pressure when in poverty to still appear middle class ish, because the world still requires us to display certain standards. Not necessarily of fashion, but even the base marker of no obviously patched clothes, having clean hair, nails, shoes etc that all require time and supplies. We have to dress professionally at work, which is often hard to do in all the seasons.

    My partner and I are more well off now to where we still live paycheck to paycheck, but I have a tiny savings for in case something happens. However, outwardly to people who aren’t close to know our struggles, there is no difference between us now and us over the last several years of struggling to keep enough food (or nutritious, filling food) on the table, because we were able to appear as if we had all the things enough, even while we didn’t even have a stove or refrigerator for several years.

    To my coworkers who make the same wage, but come from families who are able to give them elaborate gifts like cars, or who can still live at home in a nice neighborhood, we don’t talk about what it’s like to go home to no heater, or having a single pair of shoes and coat after getting waterlogged all day that will probably be cold and wet tomorrow as well, or all the little things that make life stressful. People don’t have to be destitute to still struggle.

    I think it contributes to the attitude many people have seeing homeless folks, thinking they must’ve done something wrong. It’s an obliviousness to the realities of how tenuous it can be to keep a house and a car, to how most people would also be left in dire straits if they happen to be unlucky with a big medical crisis (at least in America where it’s so expensive to get care). It’s an excuse to refrain from empathy and compassion, because if it’s someone’s fault then you can be excused from helping.

  • emberbear

    Compassionate as always, Nimue. The truth is that most people are struggling. The price of food, that most basic of commodities, has more or less doubled over the last 15 years, and rents too, but salaries have not, nor has Social Security kept pace with inflation. Many people are hanging on by a thread. It is all very sad.

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