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When a Sensible Life Comes Crashing Down

120705-dateline
Screenshot from Dateline NBC.

Dateline recently aired a program following three families as they transitioned from the comfort and safety of a middle-class life, to the struggle and anxiety that came with job loss as a result of the recession. The program, America Now: Lost in Suburbia, shows life on safety-net services (watch it below). Besides coping with the debilitating shame that comes with poverty, one thing is clear from the stories: None of the families want to be using government benefits. 

“It’s this dirty little secret … what we don’t talk about is people who struggle,” says Joyce Welch, who hides her poverty from others in her suburban community.  “It takes an emotional toll, it takes a mental toll, it takes a physical toll,” she says. "There is a moment where I went, 'my joy is gone -- my love for life, my ability to continue moving forward is gone.'"

 

Frank Alexander, the director of Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services points out a simple fact that can often be forgotten: It’s a lot easier to get back to self-sufficiency when you have access to benefits. “Safety nets are historically built to try to catch people right before they hit the pavement. If we can get people before they fall, we can serve a lot more people in a lot better way and we don’t have to just clean the mess on the street.”

Today, 49 million Americans rely on benefit programs like SNAP (food stamps) and piece together other assistance programs every month as they strive for personal economic recovery.  Yet, as Congress works on the farm bill next week, proposal after proposal is introduced to cut these life-lines in the worst economic times since the Great Depression.

“I don’t think we can afford not to invest more in our communities, because if we don’t we are going to have a generation that is stuck in poverty,” says Alexander.

Watch the video below and share your thoughts with us in the comments below. Do you think these families reflect your story or can you imagine a day where everything you thought was safe becomes uncertain?  Do we need a safety net and can we afford to cut it?  What did you think about the emphasis on the new poor in this story and does it imply that there are different kinds of poor people? How should Christians respond to these families?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Robin-stephensonRobin Stephenson is a regional organizer at Bread for the World. 

 


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