Everywhere, people wearing nice clothes are driving new cars and great big monster trucks, hurrying home to nice houses where they will play with their tablets, laptops, video games, and cell phones.

Also everywhere, there are poor people, some of them living on the street. Poverty is not a new problem, it is a growing problem. People are losing their jobs and homes at an alarming rate and new jobs are harder to find. And if you have felonies or bad credit you cannot pass a background check.

Being poor chisels at your pride until one day you wake up and hate yourself and hate life so much that suicide seems like the only way out. Depression and despair have left you with no hope. Some people turn to drugs and alcohol, maybe because at this point they figure, “What do I have to lose?” When the drugs and alcohol wear off they are broke and the problems are still there. They feel guilt and shame; things have gone from bad to worse.

Being poor presents problems like worrying where to sleep at night, and some laws make being homeless criminal. Small towns pass ordinances to make sleeping in town a crime. “Urban camping” it is called. Police find and ticket the person so the person flees the state. Or the person is arrested and put in jail where they lose whatever possessions they had, such as a blanket, or change of clothes, or even a car. Then they are fined a huge amount they cannot pay or put on probation so they cannot leave town. Now where do they sleep?

To move into a place, you need first and last month’s rent, security deposit, and utility deposits. This adds up to a hefty chunk of change that seems impossible to get. There are shelters and some “halfway houses” out there, but beware if these places are infested with bedbugs. Some are run by people who are momentarily clean and sober and believe since they have “fixed” their own life they are qualified to fix yours as well. Sooner or later you realize you can’t stay in the loony bin anymore. This brings you full circle back to the streets. A fugitive from society. Like a penguin in the forest. Never fitting in and no place to go.

Labor halls are only a temporary fix, enough money to get a meal and wash your clothes. Begging or panhandling is an option, but you have to set aside your pride and self worth. Some people quit even looking for work. They walk around town to get the free meals and ask strangers for cigarettes and money. Before you know it they are hanging around the park with drunks and addicts and well on their way to becoming one, too. This sets them up to be attacked or robbed.

Loneliness is a big part of poverty because, let’s face it, who wants to hang around with a person who smells like dirty socks, has no money, and complains all day about how miserable they are and how bad it is for them. It has some of the characteristics of a terminal disease. It seems there are no answers to fix things and life has become a cruel and harsh life sentence. Some pray not to wake up tomorrow. God is hope to those who believe, but some have prayed so long that they simply give up.

People become poor for a lot of reasons: sickness, hospital bills, flood, fire, death, divorce, a broken-down vehicle, and even old age. Whatever the reason, poverty sucks! It’s humbling and can be very hard to come back from. It is everywhere, and there is always someone worse off than you are.  Living in poverty is not fun, so if you think someone needs help, you can make a difference. Don’t be scared to lend a hand.

Clay Arbuckle