The Invisible Poor- Part One

By: Ryan Dearbone
By: Ryan Dearbone

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a single person that makes less than $9,800 is considered "poor".

For a couple, that threshold is $13,200, and for a family of 4, it's 20-thousand dollars.

Most of those below the poverty line are people fighting to survive, but you wouldn't know it unless they told you...

These people are known as the "invisible poor".

The common perception of poor people is that they are lazy, uneducated freeloaders.

But many are actually hard workers whose small paychecks can't pay for all of the basic necessities of life.

Crystal Hardeman of the Bowling Green Housing Authority says, "Its basically a working class where they work but they aren't getting out of the poverty."

"These are people I won't even say are living from paycheck to paycheck, cause there's not enough to stretch from one week to the next, and they're hurting," notes Linda McCray of the Human Rights Commmission.

McCray says that poverty in South Central Kentucky is more prevalent than people realize.

According to the 2004 U.S. Census, 37 million people nationwide, or 12.7 percent of Americans live below the poverty line.

As of 2003, 15.2 percent of Warren County residents could be considered "poor".

So how can people who work the same hours as you and I do still wind up under the poverty threshold?

Experts say poor education, family pressures, and lack of governmental aid are key factors.

"If you work so many hours then you can't get your governmental services. If you get your governmental services you can't work that many hours."

McCray says she's seen many instances of discrimination against the invisible poor by co-workers, bosses, and the rest of the community.

"To be poor...I'm gonna equate that with a being a criminal. You
must've done something wrong to be in this situation."

The discrimination can range from the rolling of eyes to verbal and physical abuse.

She says overall Bowling Green and Warren County are "compassionate communities" but are still blind to the reality of these struggling people.

"We think, "Well there's a program for that, or there's assistance for that. Well I heard about this and you can go here but we fail to realize there are many people who fall through the gaps."

She says its important that everyone keeps in mind how quickly the tables can turn.

"When you see someone who you know is vulnerable and having a rough time financially, remember that that could be you. It could happen to anyone."

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