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Poverty: Learn What it Means, Demand That it Ends

If you had to choose between driving and breakfast, which would you pick?

What if it were between health insurance and a phone?

Getting to work on time or caring for your children?

For people living in poverty, this is more than a mental challenge–these are choices that have to be made–and 36% of the Children in Buffalo are living in poverty.

The Homelessness Alliance has recognized that poverty–not mental illness, not substance abuse, but poverty is the greatest cause of homelessness in Buffalo.  I know plenty of people with mental illness, and more with substance abuse problems who manage to keep a home, but poverty can trap a person.

You are invited to join me, and others, in Western New York in 2009’s “poverty challenge.”  This is not “playing poor,” this is about awareness and advocacy.  Here’s how it works:

  • STEP 1:     If you register, you can record your information using our online Challenge Journal starting June 1st, or download the Challenge journal and record your results independently.
  • STEP 2:     On Day 1, go about your day as you normally would, and record your spending, including food and any extras, in the online or downloaded journal. Think about the things you may have to give up to fit a tight budget.
  • STEP 3:     On Day 2, come as close to possible to keeping your daily spending within the allotted poverty-level budget. Be conscious of all your actions, and take the cost of each of them into account. Record your spending in your journal as well as document your experience.
  • STEP 4:     On Day 3, go about documenting things in your journal similar to Day 2.  You will be asked some different questions about your experience on this day.
  • STEP 5:     If you took the Challenge online, we’ll e-mail you our analysis of this year’s Challenge.

Detailed instructions regarding the daily entries will be found with each day’s journal.

Throughout the challenge, you are also invited to share your experiences by letting us post your comments for you on our Challenge Blog. Details regarding this can be found on the Challenge Journal page once you have registered.

I took the challenge last year, and even though I thought I was relatively enlightened about poverty, it opened my eyes.  Poverty is a struggle.  If you don’t believe me, that is all the more reason to take the challenge.

The Poverty Challenge is sponsored by the Western New York Homeless Alliance.  Much of the information in this post is taken from their website:, where you can learn more and register for the challenge.

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