Thanks to Single Ma at Fabulous Financials for referencing this Washington Post article about the high cost of being poor.
I live in a transitioning urban neighborhood that has traditionally been home to a majority of African American residents. Over the 16 years I've lived here, it has become increasingly trendy. That means we finally got a supermarket--two of them, in fact. But for years, the only grocery stores within walking distance were small and expensive neighborhood operations. The housing stock is old--great for yuppie rehabbers, but less satisfactory for families who have lived here since their homes were built in the 1930's and '40's. We have the second highest crime rate in our city, recently edged out of first place by a low-income white neighborhood on the other side of town. Our insurance rates reflect this.
Professionally, I work with and for poor people. For all my whining about my finances, I am grateful NOT to be in their shoes. I DO have a washer and dryer. I DO have the funds to replace my ten-year-old van when it finally dies. I DO have a bank account--more than one, in fact, so there's no charge to cash my checks.
Recently, a friend griped to me about all the "benefits" a "welfare mom" gets. He started off with subsidized housing. I responded that in our city, less than 12% of the poor have subsidized housing. The rest pay market rates for what are often substandard apartments--the kind of places that don't ask questions about prior evictions or require that the family make 3 times the rent each month. He was surprised to find that food stamps are based on a PERCENTAGE of what a single person or family needs to feed themselves for a month, and that the percentage is NOT 100%.
As the Washington Post article says, "You have to be rich to be poor."