Jessica Tregeagle has been living at the poverty level to help demonstrate to Utahns that being poor just by itself makes it harder to get ahead even a little.
She’s an analyst at the Utah Community Action Program in Salt Lake City. She and another CAP worker, Shawn Teigen, purposely lived at the poverty level this month, gaining real-life experience in how it can be to go hungry, struggle for adequate transportation and just live a subsistence existence.
Their experiment showed that being down and out takes so much hand-to-mouth energy that getting ahead is mostly a fantasy for the 254,000 Utahns who are at or below the federal poverty level.
But in her blog most recently, Tregeagle expressed frustration at critics who she said just don’t want to admit that poverty in the United States is a real problem.
“It upsets me that people make light of poverty in America because it isn’t as bad as other regions of the world,” she wrote. “No, we don’t have large populations of people who lack access to clean water, sanitation or basic education…but poverty is not a competition. Unlike countries such as India, Kenya and Bangladesh, we have the financial means to end chronic poverty. The resources exist in the United States to ensure a minimum standard of living for all of its citizens. No child in America should wonder where there his/her next meal is going to come from, or where he/she is going to sleep each night. All full-time workers should earn a liveable wage. Healthcare should not be a luxury for those fortunate enough to have it provided through their employer.”
The CAP should be commended for its work. It’s demoralizing that the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” crowd can’t lower themselves enough to recognize the real problems and lend a humanitarian hand.