Monday, May 30, 2011

Judging The Homeless Will Not Save You From Poverty

Brianna Karp, the author of The Girl's Guide to Homelessness, recently did an interview with Rick Newman for Yahoo Finance regarding her experiences as a young homeless woman. Karp lost her job in 2008 and after working temp jobs and living paycheck to paycheck she decided to move in with her parents.  The article on Yahoo does not make it clear but there is a history of abuse in her relationship with her parents and it therefore hardly surprising that given this fact, she decided to move into a trailer that she parked at a Walmart parking lot.

She published a book about her experiences and used the small advance to pay personal loans to friends who have helped her along the way.  At present she is still homeless though employed as a marketing assistant for a local nonprofit theater group.  At present, she still does not make enough money to pay her rent but she feels good about what she is doing. 

We live in trying economic times and the middle class security that many of our parents had was a thing of the past.  Gone are the days when a four year degree meant immediate access to a good job.  Knowing this fact the degree of blame that we place upon individuals for their financial issues is ridiculous.  Let's have a look at some of the comments on Yahoo.

Dude: Maybe she needs to quit spending money on red hair daye and re-connect with her parents who have offered her a home with them.Some wackos choose their own hardship.


Wabdxn: another scammer looking for money....

Doug: She wasn't homeless, she decided that living with her parents didnt give her the freedoms she wanted. Some people are actually homeless and not just the mock voluntary blogging kind.

K8thebookbuff: There are homeless people that are that way through no fault of their own. BUT the fact that this woman is homeless and thought it prudent to save up for a trip to Scotland has VERY bad money sense.

Barretta: There's no way it takes 3 years to find a job. Sure it's tough if the only jobs you apply for are as a CEO but you can get a gig doing something. Of course with Obama doing his best to make me a liar that might not be true for long.... 

Vladimir B: well i had that first impression about the parents but............ maybe they arent nice people? There are no shelters where you are? how long would it take the average "joe" to save to go to scotland? n... not calling fat, but you dont look hungry.... im just sayin...

Termite: Get off your duff and join the Armed Forces , you have the skills and they need you admin skills . In The Navy , village people .

T: the @#$% has enough money to dye her hair red and get it cut..........bwahhhhhh

Kevin Brands: what a dumba**. Sounds like she cut herself off from her parents. I have a hard time believing she put out "hundreds" of applications. If she did she must be one pathetic person for no one to hire her. Also, she's 23, she can still join the military. Sympathy for her on a scale from 1-10..... I'd say a .5, if that. One more thing, that was a pretty desperate and looney relationship she had with her "fiance." This chick sound like she is a few cents short of a dollar if you know what I mean.

Barrack: Since she was living in the Wal Mart parking lot in a trailer, did she ever think of applying at Wal Mart? Beats living with no electricity and water.
Fluff piece to say the least 

Just Another Idiot: She may be homeless, but she is not missing any meals. Look how big she is - Huge!

Craig: Try eating less, honey. Or, bank the money you're spending on hair-dye

Bass Man: You're 24, you're a woman, you're homeless.....get a boyfriend with an apartment...problem solved. This is more a reflection on her stupidity than the economy. Nothing like promoting a book deal...Thanks for the Ad Yahoo. Can you write an article on the Clapper or Sham Wow next since you've resorted to being nothing more than an infomercial.
These are only a few of the over 7000 comments.  To be fair, some people did have empathy for Brianna Karp and others even shared their experiences with homelessness and poverty; however, as can seen above many chose this opportunity to shame her. Others engaged in ableism with great glee referring to her as a wacko, lame, crazy etc.,

Many were quick to shame her for her decision to travel to Europe in search of love, based in the idea that love should not be a primary concern for her, given her living situation.  Others took the opportunity to fat shame her, while others asserted that she simply was not trying enough. Some thought that they would be helpful and suggest that she join the military, thus failing to recognize that one should not have to risk one's life or support in a military solution to geo political issues to avoid starving or homelessness. Even though we know that the system is absolutely skewered towards benefiting the top one percent, we still socially blame the individual for being unable to support themselves. 

Much of the attitude is based in fear, though I am quite sure that many of these commenters would refuse to acknowledge this. Many people live on the precipice of homelessness, and many people who are homeless are under employed.  We all want to believe that there is something that we can do to avoid the worst possible outcomes for eg, people who repeatedly tout exercise, diet and whatever concoction a snakes oil salesmen is peddling to avoid disability but the truth of the matter is that there are no easy solutions that offer strict guarantees for a good quality of life and this is particularly true if you are already negotiating an ism. Judging someone is not going to save you.

H/T Red Queen