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Poverty is Everyone’s Problem

I often think how lucky I am to have been born into a family that was decently well-off financially. I was able to get a loan for my first car (the same one I still own – and use seldom) only because my mother has been in the same, decently well paid job for decades and she agreed to co-sign. Many young people where I’m from get their first vehicle or financial help to do so from their families. Having a car is a big deal in North America today, where many cities are simply no longer designed for people who don’t own one, people whose families don’t have any extra income to spare for this luxury. Some neighborhoods lack basic amenities, everything from health care to grocery stores. In neighborhoods where the vast majority of residents are poor, stores and services may move out because there is not enough profit to be had. The poor also tend to lack the money to own a car. Put two and two together and you find that these people are left having to travel far by bus, foot, bike or cab for health care, for food. Some may say, tough luck, these people lack ambition. Poverty tends to be reinforcing. If you have to spend more time than other people to get food, to get health care, it leaves less energy and time for things like looking for a better job, putting in more hours at work, having a second job, looking after your children, cooking for your family, spending time with your family, pursuing education so that you may move up in the world.

People can’t help the circumstances they are born into. Some children are disadvantaged before they are even born, when their mothers drink, smoke, do drugs or neglect their nutrition during pregnancy (perhaps as was done with them). To expect these people to rise up out of these circumstances more than rarely, on their own, is expecting too much. To believe that it’s enough to put more police officers on the street for when lives go wrong, is gambling that the person victimized by crime won’t be you or anyone you know, and if it is you, that it won’t be violent, and if it is violent, that it won’t cause permanent harm. Helping the worst off in society is not being a bleeding heart, it’s practical. Prevent the problem before it becomes yours. As has been said before, poverty is everyone’s problem.

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