Poverty Survival Handbook

By | Sep 20, 2010

The poverty rate in America has exploded. One in seven Americans are struggling with the fact that they are poor. Two and a half million Americans are not working, and nearly fifty million do not have health insurance.

Wait a minute. Aren’t we a first world country, one of the richest most powerful nations in the world?

It seems like a paradox. You mean to tell me that of the seven houses on my middle-class street one of these families is poor?

What happened to the “American Dream”? The images of white picket fences and home owners protecting their precious American dirt are fading faster the U.S. Department of Labor produces unemployment reports.

The American Dream has morphed from an image of a tree-lined three-bedroom tract home tucked away in suburbia into a two-bedroom apartment brimming with three families.

Survival Skills

So how do those who teeter on the verge of poverty prepare for a personal economic disaster that plunges a family into an impoverished state?

As a homeless services and housing executive, I have spent a decade and a half helping Americans lift themselves up from poverty to middle-class. I’ve seen how people turn on their survival mode button, sort of like a fighter pilot pushing the ejection button as her burning plane spirals to earth.

Based on my experience, I give to you my quick tips to surviving poverty in America.

Start with housing. Don’t even think the norm is one family, one house. When you are fending off the scourge of poverty, you will have to resort to one house and three families.

We already see such tactics with new American immigrants who stuff a few families, and a few generations, into one stucco-clad house until they have all saved enough money to afford their own homes.

Food is no longer a stroll through a supermarket grocery store produce aisle. Instead, prepare for a long line outside of the local food bank, that food depot of discarded groceries given away to those living just above or below the poverty level. Think blocks of cheddar cheese, dented tins of canned meat and vegetables, and expired loaves of grocery store bread.

You’ll no purchase clothing at that large air-conditioned mall on the other side of town. To resist poverty, you will have to shop at the Goodwill thrift shop, filled with donated used clothes. Forget the tears and holes in the clothes, at least they are affordable.

Do you want to have a Friday date night at the local Applebee’s restaurant? In survival mode, you will have to consider a more humble meal. Try a soup kitchen at your neighborhood faith group. It is still a hot meal, cooked with loving hands. Fresh turkey, mash potatoes, and string beans will still warm your belly, and keep within your monthly budget.

Sell your car as soon as possible. Poverty survivalists cannot afford the gas, insurance, and maintenance for a car. That public bus is just so much more affordable. It is roomy, the bus driver is your chauffeur, and you can even sleep while the vehicle is moving.

I know everyone thinks the Internet is a must-have tool in today’s society. But you can get it free at the community library.

And if you want to have fun, forget those $75 dollar tickets to an amusement park. Instead, consider strolling through the mall, laying out on the beach, or tossing a Frisbee at the park. They are all free.

Forget the keeping up with the Jones mentality that this country has instilled into our psyche for decades. With rampant unemployment and plunging real estate values, the Jones are running out of money. They are broke.

Today’s mantra is all about survival.

Photo credit: nsfmc

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