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September 04, 2005



You have hit the nail on the head, my friend. Although the poor are everywhere among us, cleaning our office buildings, ringing up our purchases, and serving our food, we don't see them and we don't know them. In Chicago's 1995 heat wave, that meant official instructions to get relief from the heat by staying at home. Clearly everyone involved in creating and promulgating that warning had air conditioning. 700 people died in the disaster.

The need for housing creates an opportunity for individuals and communities to begin to change this distance between rich and poor. You can sign up at HurricaneHousing.org to offer space in your home to hurricane survivors. And when we open our homes and communities to the survivors, we need to begin listening. Deeply.


Steve Bogner

Well said Hector. Very well said.

Julie D.

No kidding. I don't think it was because so many were black but I DO think it was because so many were poor. It is all too easy to forget just what being poor really means. Good post.


I was particularly touched by your article about the poor. Coming from a poor background, and growing up with little, I can empathize with the poor. After my divorce, I was again looking at a sad situation and facing the possibility of losing my house and wondering from where help would come. I turned to God for help, and it was such a freedom...to know that God would take care of me...my faith was increased, my joy ignited! People can be very cold, very nasty to the poor; I asked for help during this time but people did not step forward. I want to say to the victims and their families that God will take care of them, and to trust in our Lord....he always STEPS UP! :) We need to help each other, to love each other as God loves us..extend that hand and smile when the world can be very cold and indifferent. I am very thankful to see so much aid coming in!


Meg, Steve, Juie, and Angie: thanks for your beautiful and meaningful comments. I do believe that race is a factor in America that contributes to poverty (one of many), but I don't think it was the driver here. We do have an opportunity, as Meg mentioned to get closer and understand the lives of the poor and to love them dearly.


I have worked with the poor for much of my professional career. Right now I work in a community health center providing care to pregnant and other women.
The poor are real people, who are not treated with the respect that any human deserves. Many of them are disabled in one way or another - educationally, medically, psychologically. Most of them work hard at whatever jobs they can find and perform - washing dishes, flipping burgers, personal services ( many of my more educated poor patients are themselves care providers, working nights as nursing aides in nursing homes). Some are self-employed, owning (along with the bank!) hair salons, ethnic groceries, catering trucks. Their cash flow is very tight, they live from week to week. If they have a phone, it is likely to be a pay as you go cell phone, and by the end of the month I can't always reach them to remind them about their appointments because they have run out of minutes. Some are homeless, couch surfing from friend to relative week by week or month by month. Many walk miles daily to get to medical appointments, soup kitchens, welfare appointments, WIC - because they can't afford the bus or the bus doesn't run. Many of them have lost jobs due to transportation issues.
Watching Katrina hit I thought about all my patients with their issues and I realized that they would be like those hapless refugees in the Superdome.
Hopefully one of the good things that could come from this human tragedy is an awareness that we need to plan for those 'invisible' supports of our human economy.


Because they are black? I don't know. Because they are poor? Probably! Sometimes agencies don't take the time to reach them and prepare them to face all hazard situations and teach them what they need to do "before" the emergency. As a Red Cross volunteer, I strive to reach poor communities with my preparedness talks because I know that they are the ones needing more help. There is also the fact that sometimes we give more value to material things than life. If authorities tell you to leave you leave, but agencies also needed to provide the transportation to people that couldn't get to shelters. That is why they are still dealing with rescues, they didn't want to leave their homes. Every family should have a family plan on how to deal with any kind of emergency. What I will never understand is why it took so long to bring the kind of help that was needed there!


thanks for sharing your insights with us. God also used you today to push me to thank the "invisible workers" on this Labor Day. You are fortunate to be able to work with the poor and place a face and a heart to a category or people. Thanks for bringing this to life!

Carmen, thanks for volunteering, for helping people prepare and for helping them survive if hit by tragedy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic!



I thought that after Clinton ended "welfare as we know it," people would gradually stop thinking of poor people as welfare queens and realize that while there are people not working who could, many, many more poor people are working--and at harder jobs than most of us have ever done.

I'm hoping that we will learn this from this tragedy. I think remembering the so-visible "invisible" workers on this Labor Day is a great place to start.



Thanks Meg,

In Solicitudo Rei, John Paul II in 1987 said, “A consistent theme of Catholic social teaching is the option or love of preference for the poor. Today, this preference has to be expressed in worldwide dimensions, embracing the immense numbers of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care, and those without hope.” How are we doing with this calling?

In 2004, the federal poverty level for a family of 4 was $18,850. This is the first injustice!! Research suggests that, on average, families need an income equal to about two times the federal poverty level to meet their most basic needs ($37,700 for a family of 4). Families with incomes below this level are referred to as low income. There are approximately 70 million children in the United States. 38%—almost 27 million—live in low-income families. These families often face material hardships and financial pressures similar to those families who are officially counted as poor. Missed rent payments, utility shut offs, inadequate access to health care, unstable child care arrangements, and running out of food are not uncommon for them. 17% of all children—more than 11 million—live in poor families. There are 1.3 million more people in poverty today than last year . So, even many people who work are poor. We still have a lot of loving to do!



"So, even many people who work are poor."


Yesterday I was walking down the main business strip in my not-so-affluent (except the new condoization, which is just now gaining steam), multiethnic neighborhood, looking in windows of businesses as I walked by, and I got to thinking:

It really is absurd to believe that poverty and laziness necessarily go hand in hand. I tried to think of a single establishment other than the library and the karate school where I would encounter a white, Anglo person working behind a counter. And the experience isn't much different in whiter areas of town.

The white folks are far more likely to have the luxury of one parent staying home with children. There are often far fewer wage-earning hours being logged by people in better-off, supposedly more industrious households than by people in poorer households.



Meg, I'm glad that you are so aware of your surroundings and of that you empathize so much with the plight of the poor. Little by little we'll make a difference. Although the most significant difference will be the transformation of our hearts...

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