January 12, 2016 by poverty2professional
The title of this week’s post comes from the old saying, “To keep the wolf from the door.” Basically, to ward away the savage jaws of poverty however you can, maybe just paycheck to paycheck. Either way, it’s never by much. But sometimes that metaphorical wolf is at enough of a distance we can forgot it’s even there. At least until we have no door to keep it from.
How far away from homelessness are you? If you lost your job tomorrow, do you have enough months’ worth of rent in the bank to hustle a new position? If your bout of unemployment runs longer than expected, how long would it take for you to burn through your credit and/or sell off everything of value online?
And sometimes, the trip to homelessness isn’t a horrific tour bus ride but one fell swoop: fleeing an abusive home, disowned by family for coming out as LGBT, or one bad roommate who never mentioned defaulting on his payments. As that contributor in the afore-cited Cracked.com article pointed out, “The line between where you are now and sleeping in your car is much, much thinner than you think.”
This is the case for the Delgado family in the Highland Park neighborhood in Los Angeles. Just a couple short days following the Christmas holiday their home went up in flames. The fire was unintentional and began sometime around 4:30am on December 30th. All eight occupants and family pets made it out alive. But at nearly a century old, the house may as well have been a tinderbox. Gutted out by the fire, renovation will take up to a year to complete. Tragically, because the family is underinsured, they are still paying mortgage and, once support from the Red Cross gave out, they are without a home.
This is circumstantial homelessness. It happens in our neighborhoods and not everyone gets media coverage. We pass it off as fact of life and put it out of memory once talk has died down. But only if we let it. A local community member and blogger, Khanh Ho, has reached out to the Delgados, collected donations of clothing, and is fundraising on their behalf. His reflection and details of the situation may be found in his post here.
I will run the disclaimer that the purpose of the P2P blog remains expressly to raise awareness about homelessness, break down stereotypes, and draw attention to the varying circumstances which ensnare our neighbors and friends. P2P does not fundraise or solicit donations for personal cases. Instead, it is encouraged that you acknowledge, engage, and impact the ongoing issues and resources in your local communities. In the coming weeks, we’ll talk about how to be a great volunteer and spotlight organizations that work directly with addressing homelessness. For now, let’s start with the basics: Who needs your help? Unaccompanied minors, veterans, battered women, parents and children – all are vulnerable populations within the homeless community. Who are you not seeing? And, most often, who is forgotten once the holidays and the high time of giving is over?
We can re-train our brains to see the invisible. And we never have to stand by. In thinking about how close we are to falling prey to extreme poverty, we can learn to empathize with those in immediate need.