The media source I chose to watch was a documentary called How Poor People Survive in the United States of America. This documentary is based off of the homeless people in the U.S. and what they do to survive in their everyday lives. This short documentary followed Americans in different states and cities in the United States. These places include Los Angeles California, Richmond Virginia, Roanoke Virginia, and Texas. The film gave insight to how much the homeless struggle every day, even by working everyday of their lives while living in their cars, or even on the side of the streets. It was very eye opening to me as they even showed at the end of the documentary a program that was created for people to spend a day in the life as being homeless. Many of the people could not survive and made them realize they couldn’t live in the life below the poverty line like millions of Americans do every day.
One of the key points presented in this documentary was that poverty can affect millions of Americans in their daily lives in the blink of an eye. There were many people in this documentary working full time jobs, had a beautiful home, married, and one day lost it all. For example, a guy named Eric, once had a full time job as a computer engineer, and one day lost his job. He had struggled being able to keep up with his bills and fell below the poverty line: making him homeless. Once having his own home and a full time job, he is now living in his car, working as an Uber driver, and getting leftover pizza from a restaurant that keeps it in their showcase every day. Another key point that the documentary pointed out was the lack of healthcare that people receive and physical insecurity. There were short clips in the documentary where they showed a free healthcare service to the homeless that only happens once a year for them to get the care they need. This is just basic healthcare, of course, but it made a huge difference in these humans lives. The amount of physical insecurity also was pointed out many times within the documentary. These homeless people feel insecure wishing they weren’t judged by others for trying to get back on their feet and even how they look every day. When people got the dental care they needed in the documentary (a pair of dentures) they were so grateful they were crying and it was very eye opening to realize how blessed (we) are to be able to have the proper hygiene we do to take care of ourselves and not have to be in (their) shoes.
This documentary also showed how lower class people are treated compared to the middle and upper class- very poorly. For example, when a landlord evicts someone from their apartment for rent being past due. In Virginia, the landlord has the right to begin the eviction process if rent is late by 5 days. People may be waiting for paychecks, or there may be other things going on in their lives causing the rent to be due. The documentary showed sheriffs coming into a woman’s home without her being there, and allowing the landlord to change the locks with her belongings still in there. The woman showed up later and the Sherriff asked where she was going to go and she had no idea: causing her to be homeless in just one day. There is a lot of discrimination and inequality when it comes to homeless people- giving them a reputation that many don’t have.
When we discussed in class what comes to mind when we think of homeless people, the first thing I thought of was them begging for money, or even faking it. This documentary showed how much homeless people actually struggle in their daily lives and opens up your view that you really should not ignore it and do your best to help these people. Doing something so little for someone on the streets can go a long way. We who are fortunate must never dismiss the unfortunate.
Edelman writes, “Rich people make bail; poor people don’t. Regardless of actual guilt or innocence, poor people are criminalized for their inability to buy their way out of jail,” (Edelman 2019). This quote relates to this documentary in many ways. The documentary points out how many homeless people have to commit illegal crimes in order to survive. This includes sleeping on the sidewalks in tents or across people’s homes where they live, digging in the trash for food, and even begging for food. These illegal acts can cause these homeless people to get arrested-which also brings back to what we talked about in class: more homeless people are arrested than housed people. If these homeless people are arrested for doing the acts they did in order to survive-how are they supposed to pay the bail to get out of jail.
This documentary gave me more understanding and insight into the lives of homeless people. The organizations that were included in this film gave me more hope in humanity by showing what they do every day to help these people. I believe to help this poverty, we as a society should show support and create more programs to help those in need. I recommend this documentary because it sheds light on the struggles and made me appreciate all that I have.
Edelman, P.B. (2019). Not a crime to be poor: the criminalization of poverty in America. New York: The New Press.