At 37 years of age, Deborah Glover says she had lived a middle-class life and never knew poverty. That all changed when she had a car accident, and as a single mother with three kids she could no longer afford to make ends meet.
“I’d never lived in poverty before that time,” she told an audience of 300 at the recent Connecticut Association for Community Action’s (CAFCA) annual conference, Ending Child Poverty: Investing in Our Future. “I had ignored poverty all together.”
When she was advised to go to a shelter to get the help she needed, she responded, “What the hell is a shelter?”
But Glover did go. And she received treatment for a substance abuse problem she had developed as a result of the daily pain she suffered from the car wreck. She also received mental health services, through which she obtained part-time work, and said that was where her recovery started. She learned that even with these challenges she could work again, could own a home, could further her education.
“It was very difficult, living at the poverty level. And even though it didn’t last long it seemed like forever,” she said.
Glover now owns her own house and works in the shelter where she once dreaded going. She said most clients just need people to listen to them. “We need these programs,” she said. “We need these programs to help people be aware, to get the higher learning that they need, to get their health…. A lot of people that are in crisis don’t understand what we as able people can do.”
Glover was on a panel of four women – three of whom now work to eradicate poverty – who talked about their way out of poverty. She and the other panelists broke down the barriers between what Mark Greenberg, Executive Director of the Poverty Task Force at the Center for American Progress (CAP), described in his keynote address as “an ‘us’ and ‘them’ attitude towards poverty. ‘Them’ being people living in poverty, and ‘us’ being unaffected by it. If we move from ‘them’ to ‘us’ it would be transformative for our country.” With 55 percent of the nation now looking for the government to “do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people,” certainly this kind of transformation would be an important step towards changing the way we battle poverty.