Because Being Poor Doesn’t Make You A Bad Person

This story is brought to you by ignorance. A lot of people are really ignorant about poverty and what it is to be poor. I was. I am not anymore, but I was.

In my Social Work class we had a presentation on poverty. What it is, who the face of poverty is, stereotypes. Man it hit me hard. I was so thankful the lights were off cause the tears just came. I told one of my friends it really hit a hard note with me because I related to everything they were saying (check out the anti-poverty coalition at :
http://saskatoonantipovertycoalition.blogspot.ca/ and really get some info on what it is to be living in poverty) and my friend says to me “Alana… I don’t think you are living in poverty”. I felt like I had been hit in the face. This was my friend, and I know he didn’t mean it the way it came across. He wasn’t intending to hurt me, but yeah, I am in that poverty category. I am in a low income family, and we are LUCKY to have what we do, we work our asses off to stay in a decent area of the city, and to eat, and go to school so we can one day be financially comfortable. 
It’s hard to sympathize when you don’t know what you are sympathizing with though, so here is how I KNOW that I am LUCKY and how I KNOW what poor feels like…

My poverty journey personally began when I was a single mother, who had no income, no place of my own, realistically I had nothing. I am thankful to friends and family to let me stay with them, and helped me provide for my infant. 

I had to go on social assistance. On freaking welfare! It was humiliating! I felt like I was being judged every time I walked into the Social Services building. But I needed it to keep my baby alive. I didn’t live on the street, but I sure as shit didn’t have extra money or fancy things. 
Do you know how people look at you when you are a single mom (and it was worse cause I looked like a 15 year old) especially when you are on social assistance? Even the workers treat you like dirt. They make you feel like the biggest piece of crap for asking for money to LIVE.

Now I am not couch surfing, or getting welfare cheques, but holy crap is it a struggle sometimes. It is stressful on the first, the fifteenth, the 31st and every day in between trying to stick to our very tight budget. We have kids with other parents, and they need to be in hockey or gymnastics or whatever (yeah, we want them in this stuff but jesus! How are we supposed to pay for this crap? Don’t they need food?)
So we save up for those things, sometimes have no idea how we are going to pay our rent, and after we pay our rent, well eating sure sucks. Oh wait, now we have to plan a birthday party, or Christmas, or  oh crap there is a book fair or a field trip and the kids need money for this or that.. and we try very hard so that they don’t feel left out, get bullied, or worry about money. They need to worry about being kids.

It sucks. Plain and simple. For anyone who has ever been here, I feel you. I am not homeless, I am better off than a lot of people, and I am thankful, but I am also surprised my hair hasn’t started to fall out from the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. 

There, now you know someone who is in that big lump of POOR FOLK. I am not dirty, I am not wasting money, I am responsible and I am just trying to provide for my kids. Think about that when you look at a person living in poverty and judge them. How do you know what their circumstance is? Most of us are only a paycheck or two from being that poor.. then what?

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