I came from generational poverty. I was orphaned at 13. I had no one other than an older sister who died from ovarian cancer a week after her 40th birthday in 2001 two weeks before I graduated from college. She suffered needlessly and died from lack of timely access to medical care for the status crime of living while poor and female in this country that bills itself as “the land of opportunity.”
I couldn’t go to college right out of high school (dyslexic, was in special ed and not a merit scholar). After a disabling car accident in 1991 when I was 24, I went to college as a non-traditional aged student, hoping for the opportunity to re-enter the workforce since a broken back and two smashed knees from the accident left me unable to work in any job that required standing for long periods of time.
I didn’t get to go to college until I was in my late 20’s and had to take out student loans. I finally graduated at age 34. The first in my family to ever graduate high school AND college. So I had a few significant obstacles that most people don’t.
I don’t have a Masters Degree (couldn’t afford grad school), but I have a Bachelors Degree in mathematics. Unfortunately, that’s not enough education to even land a job as a public school math teacher, but there’s no need-based student aid funding for grad school to get my Masters and state teachers’ certification. I have been unemployed since November of 2001. And not by choice. I was an entry-level brokerage firm employee — my first job I got since graduating from college as a non-traditional aged student in May 2001 at age 34 — and I had just re-entered the workforce with high hopes of getting to climb back out of poverty after I was initially taken out of the loop by the disabling car accident at age 24 in 1991. Things began to look like I might actually have a chance for the first time in my life, until after 9/11 which messed that all up.
So I began writing while trying to keep up a job search and found I was half decent at writing. I have written blog pieces, contributed to Alternet, and I have also written several online articles for online news journals like Suite 101. I have also written and published four nonfiction books on contemporary social justice issues: Classism For Dimwits, Eyes of a Monster, Nothing You Can Possess, and Divine Right: The Truth is a Lie.
I also hold a CDL Class A, but lack the two years experience freight companies want from job applicants before they’ll consider hiring them.
I am one of the 6 million poor, unemployed middle-aged Americans struggling without any safety net or income other than food stamps. I have resorted to salvaging scrap metal just to survive while keeping up an increasingly hopeless job search. On May 4th, 2010 just three weeks before my 43rd birthday ago I got slapped with a diagnosis of very early stage glaucoma when I had a six year long overdue optical exam for badly needed new glasses. Without treatment — including ophthalmologist’s glaucoma monitoring exams — I will end up blind and permanently disabled. It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of when.
I have been unable to get any help from Medicaid as a poor adult without kids under age 65, so I can’t even get over the first hurdle of ophthalmologist exams to monitor the condition and prescription of treatment to halt the progression of the glaucoma (which won’t stop progressing or wait to leave me blind and totally fucked until someone decides I’m “worthy” of getting helped).
I have gone seven pages deep in a Google search, contacting every glaucoma foundation and charity I’d be eligible for help from (which are precious few for those under age 65) only to get no help at all. So I know all about “all these agencies out there” that purport to help indigent people with serious medical needs. I know all about not getting human needs met so I *can* help myself and maybe have somewhat of a chance of getting back on my feet as a 43 year old poor woman…which ain’t gonna happen if I end up blind because of no help and having to live in a society that doesn’t give a damn about anyone who isn’t one of society’s “winners.”
NOTHING I am able to do or trained to do, or enjoy doing matters if I lose my eyesight. Which is why I am SOOOO pissed that I had to beg for help from the public at large, many whom are almost as poor (and some poorer) as me, just to get ONE of many subsequently need ophthalmologist appointments.
One FB friend already helped me get one exam at an ophthalmologist where he lives (different state), but he is also my age and long-term unemployed and he wapped it out on his credit card for me. The news at that exam was my IOP was at 25 and 26 (much higher than it was at the Sam’s Club optometrist this past May when the IOP pressures were 22 and 24). There is no optic nerve damage at this point, but once my IOP reaches 28-30, I will need to start on glaucoma drops to bring down and control the IOP and maintain it at safe levels (ideally below 21, which is still considered high but within the normal range).
Here’s the rub: I will need to have my IOP monitored by having to go to an ophthalmologist every month or so. And at $275 a clip, with being poor, uninsured, and jobless without ANY income other than the $20-50/mo in book sale royalties I get plus food stamps, there’s NO way for me to have this monitored and NO way for me to get any potentially needed IOP-reducing drops to save my eyesight and nip the glaucoma in the bud. So early diagnosis hasn’t helped me worth jack since I can’t get the medical care I need.
As for medical schools in my area, there is only one but there is no teaching hospital or medical clinic associated with it. I live in Erie, PA, not Philly (unfortunately) and have no means to travel.
Unfortunately, no mainstream news journalist that I am aware of is really interested in this or the rest of the real humanitarian crisis of poverty in America because nobody cares about poor Americans. And it’s not just that nobody cares about the poor, I am convinced that most people really hate the poor and want us to suffer.
Whenever people are confronted by someone in poverty reaching out begging for help, they fob them off with telling them to go to “all these agencies out there” that purport to help the poor.
They politely say to the poor person asking them for help, “have you tried X, Y, Z?” as if the poor are all too stupid, to lazy, or too “uneducated” to think to have ever tried anything.
Whether it is help for avoiding freezing to death from utility shut-offs from unaffordable rates and lack of income, or denial of help with access to medical care to prevent permanent disability (like blindness from glaucoma, as in my situation) or possibly even death; poor people are routinely treated like crap and given the run-around and denied the badly needed help that everybody else thinks is out there.
To believe that those in poverty weren’t “resourceful’ or “smart enough” to avail themselves of “all this help out there” or ambitious enough to “want to work” is to believe that the 45,000 poor and uninsured Americans who died last year from lack of access to medical care didn’t try to get help before it was too late for them.
And that does not include the untold millions of poor Americans who face permanent disability for lack of access to medical care. It’s not just those who’ve died.
It’s people like me facing a sentence of irreversible blindness from untreated glaucoma while poor, unemployed, and uninsured.
It’s people like my neighbor, Mrs. Bibbs, who lost her left leg all the way up to her hip to gangrene from diabetes complications because of being denied the help that would have enabled her to manage and control her diabetes and possibly prevent her from losing her leg.
Yet, to hear most people who have never been truly poor trying to get help, there’s “all this help out there” and “plenty of jobs” to go around for everyone and if you really need help, there’s “all these agencies out there” that will help you.
Do they really think that I want to go blind? Me, a writer, an author, a woman who had to overcome so many obstacles to get an education and who absolutely lives for research, reading and writing and helping kids with literacy?
Do they really think Mrs. Bibbs wanted to lose her leg?
Do they really think that we might not have tried and tried and tried to get jobs and get help from “all these agencies and charities out there” so these horrible things wouldn’t happen?
Why do so many people think that poor people like me and Mrs. Bibbs wouldn’t try everything within our power to get badly needed help before ending up with ruined lives that can never be truly fixed?
My eyesight means more to me than anything else in the whole world. I am sure Mrs. Bibbs felt that way about the leg she lost, too.
Why do they think those of us who are poor are too incompetent and stupid to try to get helped or too “lazy” to get jobs so we could get on our feet? Are any of society’s more fortunates willing to give up their jobs to one of us “undeserving” jobless poor so we won’t be poor anymore?
Why do they use poverty-profiling by credit checks and other invidious forms of discrimination to deny poor people jobs and then blame us for our poverty and lack of access to medical care so at least we can remain able-bodied so we CAN fend for ourselves, take care of our families, and work if we ever get the chance for a job?
They know that 123 Americans die every day from poverty and lack of access to health care.
They know there are untold numbers of poor Americans who suffer permanent disabilities because they obviously couldn’t get any assistance from “all these agencies out there.”
They know there are poor Americans — 5.7 million US households, to be precise — who are without basic life-sustaining utilities and they didn’t end up being screwed that way because of being too “stupid”, too “lazy” or too “uneducated” to actively try to get help while trying to get on their feet.
They know there were never enough jobs that pay a living wage to go around for everybody in need of a job and who wants a job, but found themselves kept on the outside looking in when they tried to get jobs. Yet, being jobless and poor is somehow still the fault of the poor who didn’t ask to be jobless, poor, and completely marginalized.
So what gives? I can only conclude that it’s because most of America’s upper classes truly hate the poor because it’s not like they “didn’t know” just how bad things are for America’s poor. They just don’t care — especially about poor women.
Even in the 2008 presidential campaigns and debates, the poor were totally ignored as if we don’t even exist — despite the fact that according to the US Census Bureau and the Dept. of Health & Human Services as of 2007, 38 million Americans were living in poverty. That’s more than the entire population in the state of California.
Talking about help for the poor is the political “kiss of death.” While candidates trotted out middle class poster boy Joe the Plumber and personally identified themselves with “Main Street” (which is code speak for middle class), not one voice spoke out for the 38 million poor people who would gladly be in the position of Joe the Plumber, if only given a chance.
With all the talk about the bailouts, the mortgage relief, health reform, nobody talked about those of us in poverty that desperately need an economic lifeline more than the “winners” in our “ownership society.”
Why are we less worthy of concern than everybody else? Why is simple, early glaucoma treatment to prevent sight loss and permanent disability a luxury and a social class privilege? Why do I deserve to go blind from poverty when I’ve tried just as hard as everybody else and haven’t committed any crimes? Do I really deserve to suffer and go blind because I wasn’t lucky enough to be born into a middle class family, or born a genius without a learning disability in order to be “worthy” of a living wage job and health care?
Right now my ONLY source of cash income is dependent on whether or not people buy any of my books. And that income has been about $20-50/month. So short of anyone offering to send me a $5 donation either by land mail or PayPal towards my eyesight-saving needs, the best thing would be for someone who knows an ophthalmologist personally that would be willing to treat me pro bono; or anyone willing to either (A) hire me as a researcher, and/or (B) buy my books.
Any help at all is greatly appreciated.
By land mail:
Jacqueline S. Homan, 816 E. 26th Street, Erie PA 16504
jacqulineHom@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org