Bridges Out of Poverty

Humanity House hosts class offering insight into economic challenges.

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March 4, 2024 - 2:08 PM

Georgia Masterson with Humanity House takes down a list of challenges for those who live in poverty during the “Bridges Out of Poverty” class on Saturday. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Different economic classes have “hidden rules.”

For example, those who live in poverty collect relationships instead of things. They need people who can help navigate various challenges in life.

“When you’re in middle class and your car breaks down, you call Triple A. If you’re in poverty and your car breaks down, you call Uncle Ray,” Georgia Masterson said, sharing quotes and insight gained from the program “Bridges Out of Poverty.”

“When you don’t have resources, you depend on people who have those resources. Relationships are important.”

Humanity House offered the “Bridges Out of Poverty” program on Saturday morning as a way to help area residents better understand the challenges faced by those in poverty. Masterson taught the class, which was last offered in Iola several years ago.

The program is based on a book of the same name, written by Dr. Ruby Payne and others to provide a deeper understanding of the challenges and strengths that come from living in poverty. As Masterson explained, Payne was an educator who realized the way her husband, who grew up in poverty, and some of her students behaved was very different from those who grew up in the middle class or in wealthy households. She studied and wrote about the issue.

Masterson used a series of activities to identify some of the differences between the three economic classes: poverty, middle class and wealth.

She explained more about the “hidden rules” to emphasize the different ways people respond in each class.

Take the way people view money. Those who live in poverty view money as something to be spent. When they have a sudden influx, say from a tax return, their impulse is to spend it. They might spend it on something others consider frivolous, such as a new television, because they see it as the only opportunity they might have to obtain such a product.

“The way they look at it, this money is not enough to solve my problems so I might as well spend it,” Masterson said.

The middle class view money as something to be managed. They attempt to balance their immediate needs with the future. Masterson gave an example of a family that needs Social Security to supplement their income, but also manages to find a way to take vacations.

Those who are wealthy consider money as something to be invested and conserved.

It’s easy to be judgmental about the way others spend money, but in reality our viewpoint is affected by our economic class, Masterson said.

Another difference: Those in poverty view the quantity of food as most important (Did you have enough?), while the middle class considers quality (Did you like it?) and the wealthy focus on presentation (Was it presented well?).

MASTERSON asked those in attendance to share their thoughts about how people in poverty spend their time, and what they worry about.

They spend much of their time worrying about and “negotiating” how to pay bills such as utilities, rent and daycare. They may struggle with transportation and can’t keep a job. They often lack health care and cannot afford nutritious food. They may be homeless. They may not know how to access resources. They don’t have a lot of options for entertainment.

As a result, they may live in “survival mode.” That can lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression. They may turn to addictive substances as a way to escape those feelings.

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