Poverty Is Complicated: 3 Stories

Three quick stories revealing the complex nature of poverty and the difficulty in addressing it.

Story #1
The New York Times published a moving story of a New York police officer buying boots for a homeless man on a cold November evening. Officer Lawrence DePrimo encountered the man in Times Square while on his counter terrorism beat, saw that he had no shoes, and proceeded to buy him boots in a nearby Skechers store. The story would have probably gone unnoticed except that a tourist captured a cell phone picture of DePrimo kneeling down and putting the boots on the man’s feet.

A few days later another article appeared in the paper explaining that the man who received the shoes, Jefferey Hillman, 54, was seen barefoot again.

“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Mr. Hillman said in an interview on Broadway in the 70s. “I could lose my life.”

NPR ran a story in which they interviewed members of Mr. Hillman’s family who were all unaware that he was in such a dire financial condition. Reading their comments, it’s clear that they see his lifestyle as something he has chosen.

Story #2
I just finished the 4th book in Robert Caro’s series on the Years of Lyndon Johnson. Easily the most fascinating political biography that I’ve read. LBJ’s first State of the Union address occurred on January 8, 1964 just a few weeks after President Kennedy was assassinated. It’s in this speech that he first used the now famous phrase “war on poverty.”

“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.” 

Story #3
I was talking to an official with the United Way and he shared with me statistics that I found interesting. Now these weren’t written down so I might be off a little bit but I think they are generally accurate.

Poverty in Boone Country is on the rise so that about a fifth of the population lives at or below the poverty line.

During the last decade the local agencies associated with the United Way have raised (and I assume spent) in the ballpark upwards of 500 million dollars. 

So while more and more money is going to prevent and alleviate poverty, it continues to rise at an alarming rate.

If you are interested in these kind of issues, you might want to read Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts. Dead Aid looks at these issues on an international level especially in regards to Africa.

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