Posted on May 4, 2015 by Alexis Borden
One of the major problems in Philadelphia is Poverty. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of Philadelphians live below the federal poverty level, including 39% of children, 27% of work-age adults and 17% of seniors. The United States is the richest nation, yet millions of Americans live below the poverty line. The word poverty provokes strong emotions and is a topic most people don’t fully understand. Poverty is arguably the most far-reaching, long-standing cause of chronic suffering there is. For a recent assignment, I decided I wanted to take a look at poverty and homelessness. I wanted to get a glimpse into how the “other half” lives. I see homeless people all around UPenn campus and typically when I see them I ignore them but for this project I sought them out.
Poverty has many faces and changes from place to place and can be defined in multiple ways. Most people have a mental image of what they believe poverty and homelessness looks like based on their everyday interactions: a man sleeping on a steam vent, or panhandling for spare change on a street corner. But homelessness, like its causes, varies wildly from person to person and city to city, and touches many people who don’t fit traditional stereotypes. Five decades since President Lyndon B. Johnson began his so-called War on Poverty, poor Americans continue to struggle. Nearly a quarter of people in poverty have jobs, but their pay is so low that they still don’t have enough money to meet basic needs like food, shelter, clothing and health care. About 1,500 families become homeless every year. I visited Project Home on 1515 fairmount avenue and witnessed first hand what great shelters like this can do for people.
Poverty takes on a whole new face when it applies to children. Poverty and homelessness hits children the hardest. They need to grow up healthy but a lot of them don’t have this possibility. The worst thing is that hunger doesn’t affect only children’s’ health, but also their development in every way- emotional, physical and spiritual. Children are the most frequent users of emergency shelter, outnumbering adults almost 2 to 1. Although childhood is generally considered to be a time of joyful, carefree exploration, children living in poverty tend to spend less time finding out about the world around them and more time struggling to survive within it. Poor children have fewer and less-supportive networks than their more affluent counterparts do; live in neighborhoods that are lower in social capital; and, as adolescents, are more likely to rely on peers than on adults for social and emotional support.
Poverty and homelessness has been a consistent problem throughout history. No matter what the median income, unemployment or overall prosperity level is, there will always be people who are homeless and hungry.
Photography and Text by Alexis Borden, Copyright 2015
About the Author: Alexis Borden is a senior Biology and pre-med major at the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2015.