“It is hard work to be poor,” Jones said. “To get food stamps you have to go to Lawrence. By public bus it takes three hours. But first the person has to go to their locker in Saugus to get the important identification papers. Their life is scattered here and there. The little details that would be nothing for us confound them because of the logistics of accomplishing these things.”
Gail Fayre, chief medical officer of Anna Jaques Hospital, said that the emotional issues of separateness are as toxic to poor people as the lack of resources.
“It is important to address the separateness that we keep people at who are of lower socio-economic status,” Fayre said. “In a program like Same Café [a Denver Colorado eatery], everyone eats together regardless of their ability to pay a large bill.”
Lyndsey Haight, executive director of Our Neighbors’ Table in Amesbury, said that in her four years at the food bank and meals program, poverty is getting worse.
“Our Neighbors’ Table was emergency assistance when it began and it is now a lifeline,” she said.
“The middle class is now moving into poverty. It is estimated that a family of four needs to make $72,000 a year to provide the basics,” Haight said. “Yet $23,850 is the federal level set for who we are serving. This is a huge discrepancy.”
The next meeting of Local Poverty Matters will be on Wednesday, April 2 from 7 to 8 p.m. in the lower assembly room at First Religious Society, 26 Pleasant St., Newburyport. The executive director of Boston’s Walk for Hunger will lead the discussion. It is free and open to the public. For more information about Pennies for Poverty, visit www.penniesforpoverty.org.