When people say, as they often do, "People are poor because of the bad choices they make," I get irritated. Okay, fine, I get irate. The fact of the matter is that poverty is a trap, an almost irreversible one, and one that a vast majority of people are born into. As the saying goes, "It's expensive to be poor."
Before a recent job interview, Alicia Madison climbed into her 2001 Ford Explorer and realized her gas tank was empty, just like her bank account.
Unable to afford gas for the 25-mile round trip from her Glen Ellyn home to the Naperville business, Madison was forced to reschedule. She now relies on gas vouchers issued by a nonprofit agency to drive to interviews.
"If you have to work two hours just to pay for the gas to and from work, that's a big disincentive," Savage said. "It certainly narrows down your job search."
For people like Chicagoan Nicole Harris, 42, who lost her job more than a year ago, soaring fuel costs have changed the calculus of unemployment. Harris lives in Hyde Park, and when she sees job openings now, she asks herself a series of questions: How much am I going to make? How much will I spend on transportation? Can I commute, or will I need to relocate?
Most of the jobs in her field — instructional design — are located in suburbs. Since losing her job, she has subsisted on contract work, but her last short-term position barely covered the cost of the commute, she said.
This is what I mean by trap. Once you are without an income, behind on bills or struggling to make ends meet, it can be a vicious fight to get oneself out of the hole.
How about you? Have you been unable to afford the gas that would get you to a job interview? We want to hear from you below.
[Photo by Guy Haley]