“[When I was so poor that we were living on welfare] – that period of my life was very informative for me and it shaped my worldview. The experience of being part of a mass of people who are very voiceless, the experience of being scapegoated and stigmatized really has shaped my worldview.
It’s a frightening experience to become a statistic, to almost fall off the radar of what people think it’s important to discuss and to be talked about in terms that you don’t recognize.
Something I felt very powerfully after emerging from that situation was that people lose their individuality when they are trapped in that kind of poverty. It is a humiliating place to be. It affects your life in ways that people who have not been there cannot begin to comprehend. Your choices contract – so even someone like me, who had a university education and wanted to work very much was really trapped. It’s very difficult to get out of that situation.
People living in poverty are real people, with real lives and actual human qualities.
These people, they don’t just feel that they don’t matter. They feel that other people have contempt for them or just don’t know them. They feel that others find it easy to caricature.
I am not saying that every person living in poverty is heroic, but I would say that there is about the same proportion of unheroic people living in poverty as there are in other classes.”
“People in that condition tend to be treated as though they are like mold – they just happen, they just sprung up there. But the truth is that something did happen – something, somewhere went wrong in that family. What was it? [Asking, thinking about it] may give you clues.
There is no simple answer to the question ‘what happened in that family to cause that poverty’? Sometimes this is why people lose patience and would rather see things in a very black and white way and why it is easier for them to stigmatize and shove these people out of sight and not engage. It is complex and it can sometimes feel very hopeless.”