Poverty Violence

Poverty extends to more than homelessness, as almost half our population here in the Wausau lives with it. That’s right, almost 40% of the Wausau area is one disaster away from poverty. It affects almost 80% of single women with a child under the age of 5. Add another layer to that, we are combatting a system that doesn’t acknowledge that there are people with mental and physical health conditions. Poverty is the 4th leading cause of death in this country. We live in a system of greed and power. This is plain and simple….poverty violence.

Addressing “homelessness” itself should not be the default go to when bringing up poverty, because it only represents the most extreme form of poverty. It is one small part of a much larger problem.

So how did we get here? A perfect storm of rising prices, rising rent, and stagnant wages. There are many good and caring people in our community that do what they can to help, often out of their own pocket. Since when is feeding someone a hot meal or giving them reprieve from the cold, “enabling?”  We have the money for so many other projects; and yet do not take care of our most vulnerable. In the words of Paul Wellstone, we all do better, when we all do better.

Last week I spoke at the Finance Committee at City Hall. Our Chief of Police has asked to add two additional officers to the department to deal with the homeless.  Addressing the root cause of poverty will do more to eliminate homelessness than the enforcing of law and order for all. To me this is a red flag. Being homeless is not a crime. I asked if this was to assist or enforce? By the Chief’s comment on my Facebook page, I will assume it was the latter of the two. We need to look at the causes before we can treat the symptoms. There are long and short-term solutions needed.  I have worked with many wonderful officers in my career, truly caring individuals; but we need to have more outreach from Social Workers here, not law enforcement. From the public comments made and the attentiveness of the City Council, I feel we can make a difference by addressing the problem of poverty in our community without “three hots and a cot.”