On the Paradoxes of Poverty


As I lay in bed I was thinking about a discussion I had with a sister in the faith as she drove me home earlier tonight. She was saying that she loved an Asian grocery store because things were cheaper there than in regular grocery stores, and I had mentioned it as a place I didn’t like because of the smell. This started me thinking that paradoxically people who are poor often have to shop in stores that people who are better off financially find too expensive. 

For example, the wife of our former pastor used to shop at Walmart’s for their groceries. Well I can’t shop there most of the time because I have to get the stuff home afterward, and that means lugging it on public transit, so I can’t get anything heavy or a whole order. To do that I have to go to a store that does home deliveries, and most discount stores like Walmart’s or Maxi’s don’t offer that option. You need a car to shop at Walmart’s.

Same with lodging. Many people on Welfare or other fixed incomes often find themselves renting apartments they can’t afford because the ones they could afford are not available. Or they are too far out of town to be accessible. Able-bodied people on Welfare in Québec are threatened with having their $650/month cheque cut by $200/month if they don’t participate in job-hunting activities or other projects that would prepare them for the work market. But even trying to look for work on $650/month poses a challenge, and I don’t know anyone who’s figured out a way to make it work, even in Montreal, which is considered to be one of few cities in Canada where the cost of living is affordable. 

Try to figure out a budget where people can have a roof over their heads; heating and lighting; phones for contacting employers; transportation (usually through public transit, which is $83.00/month for adults); money for decent clothes, food, and I’m probably forgetting some items. I left out having a personal computer or internet access because those job-hunters could probably NOT AFFORD either of those items and would have to look up jobs or send resumés from places like Employment Canada — if that exists. I haven’t looked for a job in ages, and I guess it shows — or wherever else it might be in the States.

There are many reasons people might opt out of job-hunting opportunities. A major one would be that they feel ill-equipped to start pounding the pavement in search of employment. Not all kids grow up in nurturing environments, and some end up as adults being barely able to write their own names and needing to take their shoes and socks off to count to 20. What sort of paid work would they find assuming that someone would want to hire them in the first place? In such circumstances how would cutting $200 off their cheque help in any way? Those people don’t need job-hunting skills; they need to go back to school.

I guess that a lot of poor people have to share their living space with cockroaches and rodents or freeze in winter because of poorly insulated buildings. 

I have a condo thanks to my parents and the Lord who made it possible for them to afford buying my sister’s condo for me and pay it in full, so I wouldn’t have to worry about a mortgage. If it weren’t for my mom I would be in much direr straits than I am now, and I probably don’t thank God for her often enough although I am grateful. She’s a sweet old lady. At 90 she’s earned being called old even though mentally she’s younger than many people who are younger than she is chronologically.

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