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Ordinary Poverty

Ordinary Poverty: A Little Food and Cold Storage

William DiFazio
Series: Labor in Crisis
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Ordinary Poverty
    Book Description:

    At St. John's Bread and Life, a soup kitchen in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, more than a thousand people line up for breakfast and lunch five days a week. During the twelve-year era of welfare reform, William DiFazio observed the daily lives of poor people at St. John's and throughout New York City.In this trenchant and groundbreaking work, DiFazio presents the results of welfare reform-from ending entitlements to diminished welfare benefits-through the eyes and voices of those who were most directly affected by it.Ordinary Povertyconcludes with a program to guarantee universal rights to a living wage as a crucial way to end poverty. Ultimately, DiFazio articulates the form a true poor people's movement would take-one that would link the interests of all social movements with the interests of ending poverty.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-786-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction: Ordinary Poverty
    (pp. 1-27)

    African American woman, 38 years old. She has lost her benefits and explains what she now does to get housing:

    My friend helps me. I live some of the time with him. I eat here [at St. John’s Bread and Life soup kitchen] whenever I can.

    [Is it getting harder to make ends meet?] Yes it is. I can’t survive; I need medical assistance and I’ll do anything. I have to ask people to stay at their house. I have to do favors. I provide sexual favors [she points at her friend]. He only lets me stay with him for...

  5. 2 Soup Kitchen Blues: 1988–1993
    (pp. 28-68)

    Professor E’s Last Lesson, April 19, 1990 “There’s continuous frustration. People are hungry. There’s people here today who have not eaten for a day or two. I know you don’t believe me, but for a day or two. And the politicians do they hide their faces. They know, if they don’t do something, you’re not going to go overseas for revolutions, they’re going to have one right here. The poor people have to eat, they have to have a place to live. Instead, what do they do with their money? The poor have to get their fair share. Instead they...

  6. 3 Beggars Can’t Be Choosers: 1993–2000
    (pp. 69-108)

    “I ain’t got no boom,” she responds when I ask how the eight-year economic surge has benefited her. This is a typical answer from the pregnant women and new mothers in Bread and Life’s MOM’s program. When I refer to the current low unemployment rate in the United States, they disagree with me because they know that low unemployment is not true in their world. They are unaware of both the current prosperity and the tight job market because the poor have been excluded from the new high-tech economy. However, they are aware of the cuts in welfare and food...

  7. 4 The Dialectic of Sister Bernadette: The Limits of Advocacy
    (pp. 109-147)

    In November 1988, the day before George H. W. Bush is elected president, the soup kitchen (still on Willoughby Street) is very crowded. At 12:30, we run out of food half an hour before closing, when people are still waiting on line. Sister Bernadette—knowing that we hadn’t any food left and that we would be unable to feed the people waiting outside—loses it. This very competent woman who prepares food for over a thousand people a day starts to scream. She knows what a disaster Reaganomics has been for the poor. It is obvious to her that continuous...

  8. 5 Forgetting Poverty: A Seder for Everyone
    (pp. 148-176)

    This chapter is about what is absent from most studies of poverty, and that is a larger theoretical picture. Poverty is not just a problem for a community; it is a problem for the whole society and for all Americans. Social scientists have been very good at describing the practical conditions of poverty in a local sense, but these empirical studies are too narrow, and they miss the broader global trends. The only way to understand these trends is to engage the theoretical discourses that can help us make sense of them. We must understand poverty in the global, postmodern...

  9. 6 Conclusion: Making Poverty Extraordinary
    (pp. 177-194)

    We have seen that the poor did not benefit from the economic boom during the Clinton years, when public policy was guided by the conservative politics of theContract With America. Similarly, during the economic boom of the 1960s, public poverty policy was heavily influenced by Moynihan’sNegro Familystudy. Good economic times do not necessarily lead to significant changes in public policy in favor of poor people. In fact, as Piven and Cloward make clear inRegulating the Poor, only periods of struggle and social movement seem to benefit the poor in any substantial way, fostering antipoverty legislation and...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 195-210)
  11. Index
    (pp. 211-220)