KOMU 8 viewers show poverty has many faces
COLUMBIA - Many roads lead to poverty and the people who travel those roads each have a unique story to share.
Viewer responses to a KOMU 8 News poll on poverty showed there is no single, simple definition of what it means to be poor or near poor.
Respondents included single parents and married couples, retirees and young adults, dropouts and people with multiple college degrees.
Explanations for how they became poor or near poor included layoffs, disease or disability, abusive relationships, marriages that ended in death or divorce and age.
Some are unemployed, some work as many as four jobs. They hold, or have held, jobs such as teacher, dentist, daycare worker, non-profit officer, nurse, soldier, legal secretary and state employee.
"The face of poverty is not always what some people envision.," said one respondent. "Most people who work with me or know me casually would be shocked to know how hard I struggle, there isn't a sign around my neck."
It was an idea expressed many times.
"My family 'looks good,' we don't have the 'poor" look', but we do struggle," one respondent said.
Another said, "We are the family that doesn't really look poor. Our clothing isn't old and worn out but 98% of it is purchased at Goodwill and garage sales."
Federal guidelines put a dollar amount on poverty, as you can see in the image below.
The "near poor," which live just above the poverty level (represented in the third column above), are "more vulnerable" than most people to the "stress of economic instability caused by job loss, ill health, and fluctuations in housing, food, and transportation costs," according to the Census Bureau.
A common thread in the survey responses was the difficulty of making ends meet paycheck to paycheck.
"It feels like one step forward, two steps back, only every week," April Starr Dailey said.
Stefanie Lewis said, "I do not even know what to do anymore to survive in this world."
Another respondent said, "There is no safety net for us and no way to make one."
Tune into KOMU 8 News at noon Thursday to hear more from our viewers who are living in and near poverty.
Resources are available for those living at or near poverty, including organizations serving people who don't qualify for government assistance:
Voluntary Action Committee - it's mission is "To help low-income individuals and families bridge the gaps between crisis and stability and improve quality of life in Boone County."
Heart of Missouri United Way - It's stated goal is to mobilize "the caring power of community resources to serve people in need in mid-Missouri."