Ending Homelessness Today — Poverty
How Visible is Poverty in the U.S?
January 08, 2014
This past August a South African couple, Julian and Ena Hewitt, ventured into the impoverished township of Mamelodi to live for a month. They and their two small children took up residence not in a four-star hotel, but in a 10-by-10-foot shack with a tin roof. Their heat came from a paraffin stove and a pit latrine sufficed for a toilet. They had no running water and existed on bucket baths. They lived perilously close to the drunkards brawling outside their shack and the criminals seeking money for their Nyaope hits (a kind of low-grade heroin whose use has reached epidemic proportions in South Africa).
In their blog “Mamelodi For A Month,” it was their empathy and engagement in the lives of the invisible poor that made their journey into Mamelodi poignant. They were keenly aware of the gaps in income that existed between them and the Mamelodi residents. (The Hewitts were not naïve “poverty tourists,” as one commentator suggested.) Rather, they knew that the invisibility of poverty existed throughout their country. Theirs was a journey to bring that invisibility of poverty into the light. As Ena Hewitt noted in the blog, “How do we build stronger bridges rather than higher walls?”
I came to wonder whether their journey has an American counterpart. Does her question hold true in the U.S.?
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