Saturday, April 30, 2016
I know the poor
Poverty is a shortage of money, right? It is not. In our society, poverty is an effect of foolish decisions. It is a behaviour problem, not a money problem.
I have seen it many times but I saw it most frequently when I was the proprietor of a 22-room boarding house located in a poor area. Many of the residents would buy basic groceries etc from a nearby service station, where the prices were about 50% dearer that at the supermarket. And there was a branch of a large supermarket chain only ten minutes walk away.
And on "payday" (the day when government welfare money was paid into their accounts) it was a wonder to see the casks of "goon" (Sweet white wine in a cardboard box) coming into the place. There was always money for alcohol.
And I had to be on the ball on "payday" too. I had to get my rent before the money was all spent. I even knew where some of them drank and would go in and collect my money from them at the bar.
And they would often have fights, usually over women. And that often left me with property damage. I always had a glazier ready on call to fix broken windows. I could have tried to claim that cost back off them but that would have been in vain. By the end of the week most had nothing left in their pockets.
And the fighting was not limited to my place. They would also get into fights in bars and elsewhere. And the loser in a fight generally had his money stolen off him, often on the night of "payday". So, sometimes, if I had not got his money that day, he would have nothing left by the time I got to him.
But not all welfare clients are like that. Many are prudent enough to have money left over at the end of the week and accumulate some savings. One such was a tall black Melanesian man -- named Apu if I remember rightly. When I approached him for his rent he said: "I got into a fight last night and lost my money ... so I went to the bank and got some out". He was the only man ever to say that to me.
So he was not poor. He had money for his needs and could put something aside as well. He got the same "pay" as everyone else but he was more prudent in his behaviour.
I spent many years endeavouring to provide respectable accommodation for the poor but the poor did not make it easy for me. Many are their own worst enemies.
And in my younger days I lived on Australia's student dole for a couple of years -- and led a perfectly comfortable life. The student dole was actually a bit below what the unemployed got. So I was not poor either.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).