Homeless: Can you build a life from $25?

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Alone on a dark gritty street, Adam Shepard searched for a homeless shelter. He had a gym bag, $25, and little else. A former college athlete with a bachelor’s degree, Mr. Shepard had left a comfortable life with supportive parents in Raleigh, N.C. Now he was an outsider on the wrong side of the tracks in Charles­ton, S.C.

But Shepard’s descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents’ home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.

To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.

Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

Interesting that he quit the “experiment” as soon as something bad happened. Everyone else who is living in poverty aren’t able to quit being poor just because someone in their family falls ill.

  • Sounds to me like he had accomplished what he set out to do and was no longer living in poverty (being as how he had saved $5K). Why wouldn’t he quit when someone fell ill?

  • DaveS

    Your comment was more crotchety that usual, Chris. You okay?

    I think it was more of a test of his personal capability to pull himself up by his bootstraps than an indication of what an average poor person could do. He had a whole lot of advantages.

    And, anyone can hold their breath for a minute or two, if you know what I mean.

  • Finklebop Pinkleporkey III

    Mega-dittos Rush!

  • Erelyes

    Yeah. Crap like this makes me angry.

    It doesn’t do much more that perpetuate myths about a lazy poor class. The guy was stacked with privilege, and good mental health.

    Lets see him do it if his entire world has turned to crap, and he’s been kicked in his ribs a few times. Then I might be impressed.

    Such endeavors are easy when you have a panic button, too.

  • Stonewall

    Issa, if he no longer was in poverty, why did he abandon the experiment? OH, because being poor sucks!

  • Roger

    I don’t understand his experiment. People don’t start out at a homeless shelter, they end up at one. And he had a safety net the entire time (he carried a credit card, had family members to call) His entire experiment is little more than pissing on typical poverty stereotypes.

  • Papageno

    And, you know, I’m sure it didn’t hurt at all that he was a white male with a college education, regardless of whether he publicly acknowledged it or not.

  • Rodriguo

    He accepted food stamps and stayed at a homeless shelter for an experiment? I wonder if somebody who really needed a bed for the night at the homeless shelter was turned away because of this priveleged prick.

  • Hmmm… I guess I don’t know what to think of it. His outlook on it does seem rather condescending. On the other hand, he does have a point about attitude and effort. My mother raised herself (and us) up from poverty by the sheer force of her will. There are mitigating circumstances that prevent SOME from improving their lot (i.e., mental health, barrages of bad events, lack of education about how to proceed), but there are certainly some who simply won’t or don’t work to improve their lot.

  • Roger

    Issa,

    I agree with you that of course some people are poor and don’t care about pulling themselves up. But I don’t think this guy is a good example of just simply pulling yourself up. He had a college education, a supportive family, and he had plenty of ways to get himself out of trouble if his experiment went wrong.

    ANd then there are the interview questions

    Still, there was that safety net. Were you ever tempted to tap your past work, education, or family networks?

    I was never tempted. I had a credit card in my back pocket in case of an emergency. The rule was if I used the credit card then, “The project’s over, I’m going home.”

    His whole attitude is quite apparent that he knew he could leave the life of poverty as soon as it got tough. He’s giving a simple solution to a complex problem by playing anthropologist to poor people. It’s extremely condescending and unrealistic to think that every poor person is poor because they’re lazy.

  • Papageno

    Reminds me of Sullivan’s Travels. Similar idea about a privileged individual trying to make it as one of the homeless.

  • deepsea33

    Without the feeling that you are broke and have NO back-up plan, you can’t really empathize with the people in these situations. How can you feel desperate or hopeless with a credit card in your pocket?

  • Niel

    deepsea33 nails it. This “experiment” is bullshit from the get-go. There was a panic-button, and that makes all the difference in the world. And he’s a condescending dickhead to boot.

  • Piri

    http://www.cynical-c.com/?p=6284
    That was a real accomplishment

  • The interesting thing here is that Adam Shepard had a number of things working for him that the average poor person doesn’t.

    An education, an ability to know how to use the resources available to him, and the confidence that comes from knowing that you have a “net” in family if things go wrong for you.

    People underestimate the power that being uneducated and beaten down has. That’s not to mention that many of the people you see on the street are suffering from a mental illness that would make it quite difficult to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”.

    Chris’s cynical comment has merit in the simple fact that Adam Shepard had the confidence built by having a support system, and the ability to “take it or leave it” when it came to poverty.

    However, this is a nice story that will make many neo-cons happy, and at peace with their belief that the poor are just “lazy”.

  • Josh

    You all are an angry bunch.

  • DaveS

    Josh, indeed! Why such anger? Do you show such anger at “Survivor Man”, where Les Stroud puts himself out in the unforgiving wilderness, alone, with just cameras and some very basic gear, when in reality he is an eco-racer, survival expert, and experienced bug-eater, which gives him a huge advantage over a real person in a survival situation?

    Or is it some weird rich-person’s guilt showing here? I grew up on the poor side of middle-class, and I was VERY poor when I moved away from home. I don’t read into this any more than one person’s personal experiment, a test of *himself*, not of poor people in general.

  • gruggach

    Yeah, I don’t understand all the vitriol. Sure it’s not a perfect study. All his advantages and escape routes definitely invalidate this as a true example of poverty, but you can still take something positive from it. I don’t think it belittles the plight of the homeless or proves they’re just lazy. I suppose a conservative jerk could twist it that way, but I’d hope it may be seen as a bit more inspirational than that.

  • D

    Here’s my issues with this experiment-

    Did this man have to support children? Did this man have any disadvantages (truck breaking down and needing expensive repairs, a leg breaking on the job with no benefits, etc.)

    AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY IS THIS A STORY ABOUT A MAN “BOOTSTRAPPING?”

    This is not bootstrapping, this is a love letter to how the welfare system can operate. This is an ode to the way it could work if we relieve all of the American poor of their set backs and hold-ups and give them the tools they need.

    Having an education absolutely helps- even in ways that don’t seem terribly obvious- such as buying a car. Most poor people will finance a used car costing them an average extra amount of $5k- perhaps that is where his savings would have went.

    Now, I don’t want to say I’m poor, I have a safety net, a credit card and obviously my own computer with internet access. However, I have committed to be a debt-free college student. I have a job that covers my education, gasoline and very VERY basic personal expenses. If it weren’t for my partner, I would be homeless, hungry and naked. If it weren’t for my social net, I would never have gotten my car (I needed a co-signer), and therefore my economic prospects would be even more dire.

    I find the whole thing condescending and self-glorifying. Give this man 3 hungry kids, severe depression, no safety net and send him to my town where the unemployment rate is amazingly high. Hell, for good measure, have him throw his back out because he’s overweight not due to an excess of food, but rather the malnutrition suffered by most poor people (since totally shitty, processed, preservative-laden, calorie ridden and cholesterol-infused “food” is cheaper than fresh, organic, healthy alternatives- not to mention the fact that when you work at ridiculous number of hours/day, you don’t have time to prepare a fresh healthy meal three times/day).

    My favorite response was to the childcare/probation office question. I mean, for the love of god, you cannot fix it with “attitude.” The average child care payment is $249/child- so if he’s got 2 kids, that’s $500/mo- which works out to being all of his savings for those 10 months. I mean COME ON.

    This prick has no idea what it’s like- and I’m not claiming some “holier-than-thou” thing, nor am I saying I’m down in the trenches of the truly impoverished lifestyle, but I am saying that after my meager bills are paid I have about $5.68 left each month- and that doesn’t get me even close to $2.5k.

    And in the end, when my grandmother died and everyone went to her funeral, guess who couldn’t afford the trip? Guess who had to be away from the family? ME. There was an illness in my family that resulted in fatality and when everyone took the trip to the hospital to say goodbye, I called her for 5 minutes when I snuck out back and risked losing my job. This man still has no idea what it is like to be poor in America.

    This man is a waste of carbon.

  • DaveS

    D: “This man is a waste of carbon.”

    I find it amazing how adults can work themselves up into such a frenzy of hate over this.

    Did you all get his angry over the movie “Trading Places”?

  • Dude

    The fact that people are angry over this is hilarious. God forbid anybody imply poor people can operate under free will! Yes this guy is a douche, but that doesn’t change the fact that you don’t need a college education to not be homeless. To the people saying “try doing this with three kids,” perhaps the lesson is that poor people should learn to take responsibility for their lives and not have kids they can’t support? Unfortunately they’ll never have to learn that lesson thanks to our welfare system and latte liberal guilt.

  • I work in a shelter and we see guys come in all of the time but the issue with homeless isn’t just a lack of money but a combination of things raising from addictions to mental illness (diagnosed and undiagnosed). I have seen guys come in with nothing and it often takes about 90 days for them to find an apartment (vacancy is 0.04% in our city) but for many, they self-destruct along the way.

  • Finklebop Pinkleporkey III

    I have a good idea D –

    Go have 3 hungry kids and develop severe depression. Get rid of your safety net, throw out your back and make yourself real, real fat on junk food.

    Do it right, just the way you want and get back to us in a year.

  • Health issues are a major factor in poverty. Women often must leave their jobs because someone has to take care of an elderly parent or a handicapped child. Stay out of the job market too long, and you’ll be passed over when you try to get back in. The homeless you see on the streets are mostly men, but women and chidren make up the biggest portion of “poor” people. They are just more likely to go live with someone else, family member or friend or shelter. They are still homeless, just not on the streets.

    Catastrophic medical expenses were once the most common cause of personal bankruptcy cases. That is, before a new law a couple years ago made it impossible for most people to file.

    And the men on the streets are often out of work because of health problems. If you don’t have that education or training and rely on physical labor for a living, aging can be a devastating blow.

    And the education he didn’t tell anyone about still shows through in how well you can impress someone into hiring you or how well you perform certain tasks. Someone else didn’t get those day jobs this guy took. Remember, half the people on earth are below average intelligence. But they still deserve a fair chance to make it in life.

    When you combine an impoverished background and lack of family support with one or two bad breaks or kids to support, poverty is just waiting for you.

    You might say that a lot of folks are poor or homeless because of drug and alcohol abuse. That’s true, but a lot of them had lives that were shit first.

  • Nikki

    He doesn’t seem condescending to me, maybe a bit unrealistic with the optimism. Being young and strong, being kept healthy, protected, and nurtured and educated as he was and having the option of bailing out is a far cry from feeling alone, having literacy issues, not being given a stable home and proper nutrition while growing up. He’s obviously going to be more confident and charismatic than the average person who ends up at a homeless shelter, more attractive (due to proper nutrition, less stress, and better medical care)and well spoken (family life and education) too. If he could step into someone’s shoes who didn’t have proper meals on the table, had terrible parents, didn’t see the doctor as often, never really learned how to read and write well, went through the stress of being poor, unaccepted, bottom rung, he wouldn’t be the healthy, balanced, long-term thinker he is. It’s simple psychology and biology. Stress makes people turn to quick fixes, it makes sense to do what feels good right now (overeating, drugs, buying on impulse) if it doesn’t look like things are going to get better later on anyway.

  • eli

    Why get so mad? Sounds like he had some fun, and probably learned some good lessons.
    You can spin this to be a story of condescence and propaganda, but it could just as ieasily prove how important health and education are. As far as I understand it, those are the two biggest factors that keep people from replicating his experiment. From this perspective, we can go into the homeless shelters and say, with some more education, and some better healthcare, you too can escape your poverty! Isn’t that a good thing?

  • The most insightful comment I’ve read on here came from Rodriguo. This guy took government hand outs that I’d imagine are stretched thin as it is. I’d hope he donated generously to those organizations from which he accepted food stamps/money/shelter. Because after all, this entire “experiment” amounts to little more than one of those new-age adventure vacations. The jobs he took might have been someone else’s meal ticket. So in that sense it was harmful in a way mountain climbing or sky diving could never be.

  • DaveS

    He was in South Carolina. You don’t know the beds and meals for homeless are stretched thin, and food stamps are never short, they just print what they need, and budget it based on what’s been used.

    Also, homeless shelters, if they’re run by the government, are a public resource. Saying he’s not allowed to use it because he has a credit card is like saying he’s not allowed to take a seat on the city bus because he can afford a cab. If they’re run by private charities, they have their own rules, and I hope he paid attention to them.

    I really believe that the people who are getting so upset about this are the people who’ve never been poor. My wife and I have each been right on the edge of going to the shelters, separately, at times in our lives, and neither of us think this kid’s project was any big thing.

  • Dave, I guess that everyone internalizes their poverty differently.
    I grew up poor. Dirt poor…and clawed my way to a middle class life.
    I find this “experiment” offensive.
    A neo-con fairytale.

    Poverty is a vortex, and when bad things start happening for the poor, they don’t stop.
    I hated listening (and still do) to middle to upper class brats talk about the “answers” to poverty in such a simplistic way…as though they’re in some sort of infomercial.

  • G

    I have personally met and spoken with Adam about his project, and he is more than aware of the controversy his book has generated.
    At the outset of the work, Adam concedes to his numerous advantages: he was addiction-free, mentally stable, physically-fit, and unburdened by debt. The stay at the homeless shelter was brief — he soon moved on, truly working his way up through his own force of will. This “project” was an experiment in self-reliance, the book is merely a record of his journey. He never accuses the poor of laziness or shiftlessness; he instead speaks of his blue-collar co-workers with the utmost respect. They are the heroes of the story, struggling every day to achieve the “American Dream” Adam sought to find.

    Since the publication of “Scratch Beginnings,” Adams has taken the opportunity to raise awareness of the daily problems the impoverished struggle against; he has also given numerous talks about the book, where he encourages listeners to pursue their goals and overcome any challenges they may face. In many regards, his experience was universal; at my school, fellow classmates shared stories of members of their own families pursuing, and realizing, their own, personal “American Dreams.”

  • Dave

    The reason people here are pissed off is because it flies in the face of their liberal socialist worldview. A guy can bootstrap himself out of a jam? No way! Not in Evil Corporate America he can’t!

    Reminds me of one of those old Star Trek episodes where they’re trying to figure out how to deal with a diabolical alien robot and finally Captain Kirk says something and the robot starts blowing gaskets and mouthing “Noooo! Does not compute…does not compute…”

  • No..that’s not why Dave.
    This whole thing would have more merit if the person who did it (and many have) but was really poor, a recovering drug addict, mentally ill or physically ill and overcame it.
    This is a mastrubation session for those who want to believe that all it takes is “pulling your bootstraps up”.
    That’s only part of it.

  • Niel

    DaveS, you couldn’t be more wrong.

    He was in South Carolina. You don’t know the beds and meals for homeless are stretched thin, and food stamps are never short, they just print what they need, and budget it based on what’s been used.

    Also, homeless shelters, if they’re run by the government, are a public resource.

    I am from South Carolina. The homeless shelters in the upstate area alone are so over-populated that any given night there are 50 to 100 people sleeping in the parking areas of the shelters – not to mention under downtown bridges etc. In other words, the beds etc. ARE BEYOND stretched thin in South Carolina. There are counties in the state where unemployment is near 20%… and that’s only the “unemployment” which is recorded (those numbers are skewed low). Charleston County is well-known for having an enormous low-income populace (see: Gullah People) which is highly dependent on the resources this prick was taking up for his little experiment. It’s basically guaranteed he took a bed and plate from someone who was truly in need, just so he could experiment a little with bootstrapping. It’s pr0n for the Rush Limbaugh crowd.

  • The reason people here are pissed off is because it flies in the face of their liberal socialist worldview. A guy can bootstrap himself out of a jam? No way! Not in Evil Corporate America he can’t!

    Reminds me of one of those old Star Trek episodes where they’re trying to figure out how to deal with a diabolical alien robot and finally Captain Kirk says something and the robot starts blowing gaskets and mouthing “Noooo! Does not compute…does not compute…”

    Just as, I’m sure, you and all other right-thinking conservatives were incredibly reasonable and not-at-all agitated by or dismissive of Nickel and Dimed, despite it showcasing the glaring failures of the neo-con corpratist worldview of the current state-of-affairs. And certainly, that was obviously just a bunch of leftist bunk while the example in question is a thorough, non-partisan study of the issue that none should deride for its obvious and numerous merits and truthfulness.

    I suggest recalling the wisdom of stones and glass houses…

    All the upset instead must be from those poor, deluded liberals having their cages rattled by reality and not being able to handle it. After all, it couldn’t be that they’re angry because, say, the story is simply a another repetition of the decades-old and tired denial of the reality of poverty and class movement in America that ignores or puts a simplistic, shallow gloss over numerous factors in its assertions regarding what is required for economic achievement in our society.

    It couldn’t be due where Mr. Shepard’s statements suggest the blame for poverty lies — that poverty is about either being lazy or not being able to handle your money responsibly — directly in the face of the 37 million people who somehow just can’t seem to pull off the same sort of ten-month miracle suggested by the experiment as oh-so-easy and simple for any responsible adult of average intellect, and the numerous implications of 37 million people somehow just not being able to grasp simple willpower/attitude/”financial responsibility”-based economics.

    Especially when you know poverty regularly and cyclically happens to nearly all working-class families — with half that number consisting of children who can’t simply pull themselves out — rather than occurring to some mythical social fringe or single adults, therefore calling the majority of of the citizens upon whose backs this country functions lazy, stupid, irresponsible and unworthy of help or consideration.

    Or that 35%-45% of African American and Latino children live in poverty, compared to 11% of white children, and thus bootstrapping suggests the disagreeable and nonsensical racism that non-whites are more lazy than whites.

    No, certainly, such anger could not arise from from any good reason to be suspicious of Adam Shepard’s experiment as actually pointing the way to some sort of solution to or suggestion of a real way out for those millions living in poverty so unaccountably in light of this experiment.

  • DaveS

    Niel: DaveS, you couldn’t be more wrong.

    Okay, I stand corrected. But I do think I could be more wrong. 🙂

  • Rodriguo

    Dave said:

    “The reason people here are pissed off is because it flies in the face of their liberal socialist worldview. A guy can bootstrap himself out of a jam? No way! Not in Evil Corporate America he can’t”

    Seemed to me that he used an awful lot of liberal-based programs to get himself out of the jam. Foodstamps, homeless shelters…. But you won’t want to talk about that part would you neo-con Dave?

  • DaveS

    Rodriguo, that’s an excellent point. I knew there was something eating me about what everyone was saying, and that it!

    The liberal side of the media (that being very rare nowadays) and politicians always portrayed shelter, food stamps, and other social services to be of crucial help to poor people, and a critical part of recovery.

    In this case, a white kid with lots of advantages demonstrated the truth, in this case, of those services.

    I don’t see how neocons could present this as a success case, since he attributes his success to the social programs. Instead, I think all of you who are outraged, pointing out that someone with more disadvantages (like being a minority, or having dependents, or being mentally ill, physically handicapped, or drug addicted) would NOT have been able to extricate himself.

    neocons would point out that those social programs are wasted money if it doesn’t help people to improve their lives.

  • DaveS

    Sorry for the bad sentence structure. I was editing it and somehow accidentally posted. I think it’s still understandable.

  • D

    I repeat:

    “This is not bootstrapping, this is a love letter to how the welfare system can operate. This is an ode to the way it could work if we relieve all of the American poor of their set backs and hold-ups and give them the tools they need.”

  • Nikki

    I forgot to mention that I didn’t believe he should be using the services that he did if he had no intention of keeping track and paying them back in some way later on (note: I don’t know if he did, haven’t looked much into it, correct me if you want to). If you don’t need a homeless shelter and a free meal, I think it’s unethical, and that it should be illegal, to pretend you do. I know he will go on to pay lots of taxes that support those programs, but I can’t just call up the police and fire department and send them here and there for an experiment because I’m partially paying for them and I think it’s up to me to personally direct their resources to test them out.
    On my original note, I still think it’s fairly basic psychology and biology. A life of health, education, stability in family life, relatively good status along with a “bail-out” mechanism like a credit card and a family to go back to, makes for more confidence, a more positive outlook, ability to relax and think things through, etc. He could have fun with this, treat it as an adventure, take risks without worry, all the while being perceived by employers and others as one of the more attractive and healthy (good nutrition, healthcare, family, life), positive (nothing to worry about, used to success and a good life), intelligent (education) people who are looking for work.
    A person’s proper hormone balance, health, attractiveness, behavior, outlook, coping abilities, and impulse control could be far less than optimum if they had a horrible upbringing of angry or abusive parents, classmates bullying them because they were obviously lower income, a lack of good nutrition, etc.
    Take the average high confident person and imagine how different they might be if their father hated them, called them a mistake openly, and beat them down with or without reason. It’s like when a confident person loses a competition: lower confidence, “low-rank” posture and behavior, less outgoing..but with a bad life, it’s much more extreme and more likely to be permanent to some degree.

  • J

    Give a man fish, he eats for a day…Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. This may be similar to pessimistic versus optimistic views about ones daily life. Which side are you on? Everyone has a choice and it only takes one person to impact another.

  • Michael

    Heaven forbid anyone ever believe in self-determination and the possibility of turning their life around in the 2008 United States of America …

  • DaveS

    Someone accused him of “stealing a job” from a less fortunate person. That could be applied to absolutely anyone, especially those many people with good educations and careers who lose their jobs and work at Walmart or such for a time, to get back on their feet. It’s a ridiculous assertion.

  • Ben-David

    Yes, most of the umbrage here seems to spring from offended PC sensibilities.

    1. Regarding this guy’s “advantages” – at several points in the book he tells of the lessons he learned from “authentic” poor people working their way out of poverty. One of his coworkers is a black man born into rural southern poverty who – working as a mover – saves enough to buy a house.

    I attended city and state university – where I met Asian and African immigrants who were doing exactly what Adam Shepard did. One of my classmates was an Ivory Coast native who was working 2 security-guard jobs while sending money back home AND getting an engineering degree.

    So: even people who aren’t white, native English speakers can do this.

    As did my grandparents – who showed up with just the clothes on their backs.

    2. Regarding Barbara Ehrenreich – she lived in hotels and ate/ordered out. In other words, she was doing the vicarious “drop me off in Harlem” bit much more than this guy. She didn’t really live the life.

    3. Regarding government programs – despite the leftie caricature of conservatism, conservatives do not oppose programs like food stamps. They oppose programs that CREATE and MAINTAIN a dependent underclass – by replacing wages with welfare payments.

    The biggest government freebie – with the biggest impact on poverty – is EDUCATION. And conservatives have spearheaded vouchers and education reform – rescuing the children of the poor from the limousine-liberal teacher’s unions.

  • andrew

    This guy wasted resources that could of gone to those who needed them much more. He lied to the very people helping him.
    All to write a book and prove a point that I think is allready very apperant. It is possible for a young healthy man with no dependents to work a low wage job and save a nominal amount of money over an extended period of time.
    But shockingly it’s not easy, you have to do crazy things like go without cable, cellphones, or movie premiers. What a genuis, it’s not practical for poor people to pay for HBO!
    Well for insights like that it is worth wasting the efforts of volunteers and the limited resources meant for the underpriviledged.

  • David N

    Free clue to people here: neocon doesn’t mean what you think it does. Neoconservatives are not opposed to the welfare state.

    And all this “Well, he’s white, so it’s easy for him” seems to ignore all the immigrants who come across our southern border with nothing — not even able to speak the language — and not only make enough money to live on, but make enough to send money home to their families in their native countries.

  • Moon

    Don’t our immigrants from our “southern border” get paid less than market rate, and while they send SOME money back home, it’s not that much in terms of living in America, but it’s a LOT in terms of living in their home country??

  • DaveS

    One can’t speak for all of them, but the ones I know have their own “market rate”, which is unrelated to state minimum wage, but varies by season and time.

    The ones I know are counted as “homeless”, but it’s completely by choice. They’re the breadwinners of their families. They have a home in Mexico, and they’re here where there’s work for them. They camp in the hills and do the work, and send everything they can back home. To pay for an apartment would mean less food on the table for their family.

    Once they make enough and are in a situation to bring the family north, they seek a new home up here; an apartment or sometimes they get a bunch of families together and buy a house.

    They make the same choices I would.

    But they ARE a non-citizen underclass, and we have to own up to that and fix it, one way or another.

  • anon

    Ahh, more liberal screeching about how poorly constructed Shephard’s premise is.

    He never once stated that his situation was the only way to go.

    And to the people stating that his race and education played a role, I seriously doubt it. His education helped him realize that he shouldn’t waste his money on booze, lotto tickets, and eating out. Not a difficult idea to comprehend, even for the slowest person in the world.

    And last I checked, handling a broom at a construction site or moving furniture are not jobs where race is going to benefit you.

    God forbid this guy show what hard work and frugal living can achieve. And to echo a previous poster, as a conservative, there should be a safety net, but this safety net should compel people to achieve their own independence and not cause them to become fat and happy on government handouts.

    As far as I’m concerned, the food stamps and shelter did their job. It provided that safety net so he could achieve some measure of independence. He used the system as it should be used and came out better for it.

    As to the criticism that he didn’t have child support payments or wasn’t an ex-con, it is sad that people have to reach so far down for absurd remarks.

    Yes! Let’s criticize him for making smart decisions and not getting a girl pregnant when we couldn’t financially handle it and not being a criminal! Maybe if people followed this lead, they wouldn’t be in their current predicament.

  • Moon

    More NeoCon whining. Shephard might not have suggested that his situation was the way to go, but all the blowhards from the Right Wing Noise Machine certainly did.

  • Moon

    And wait! In the last sentence, YOU DID!

  • Hrm, was failing to put a name to your words a mistake or cowardice, anon? Care to own up?

    But let’s dissect your ideas anyways, because they’re the standard neo-con propaganda: you don’t understand how an education provides benefits more than letting you know not to use booze or alcohol and save a few pennies? I think you may wish to go back to school and observe the significant social (and not-merely-networking) benefits an education provides.

    You also manage to slyly accuse all poor people of being drunks, drug-users, and fast food addicts. I mean, don’t we know that’s why the poor are poor?! Right…I wonder when you decided to bow to the truth of the almighty stereotype?

    Was it before or after you met a majority sample of the poor and homeless people you are apparently so knowledgeable about that all major studies regarding “what poor people are like” disagree with your projected idea of them?

    The same ignorance of the pertinent social factors and culture shows in the claim that race has nothing to do with getting or keeping a job pushing a broom or moving furniture or doesn’t impact their pay or advancement in such positions.

    Oh yes, there’s also the suggestion that poor people shouldn’t be allowed to have babies (but aren’t birth control and abortion immoral and irresponsible?). Ah — controlling, impossible double-standards for other people? Do I detect the scent of indignant classist privilege?

    Apparently we are ignoring that if a family should go below the poverty line, as the majority of working families and lower middle-class families eventually do as part of natural economic cycles, they should have known they wouldn’t be able to support a family before they had kids. How irresponsible of them not to be prescient!

    Of course, I just said it happens so we know it happens. Obviously the only proper solution is to limit birth to the upper classes only…

    Should someone have a kid while poor, well, how dare anyone make such a mistake! Because no one ever does that, and if someone does, we must sneer down our superior noses at you!

    And here’s a lovely standard neo-con myth: about becoming fat and happy on government handouts. Because we all know it is completely possible to live a healthy, lazy, and happy lifestyle on the amount the government gives you.

    At least if we ignore the amount the government gives isn’t and has never actually been quite enough to cover rent, utilities, food, clothing, health care, and so forth. And we’ll ignore there’s nothing “happy” or “enjoyable” about being poor.

    The whole statement is just more long-debunked “welfare queens driving Cadillacs” and “living the life” based on false-image prejudices.

    Now, let’s tackle the Daves with “But they LIKE living in tents!” rhetoric. Of course they do, because they CHOSE to do so, so they must like it and it must also thus be fair.

    Also the anecdotal “But all these immigrants make so much that…” when it is usually “These few immigrants make so much…” that ignores that the majority of immigrants are quite poor, and a few making it is called “playing the percentages” not “a functioning system”.

    If only the world really worked the way these guys think it does, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, because the lazy, stupid, undeserving poor wouldn’t be a myth. Too bad they are.

    Indeed, the right-wing argument seems to be that none of the privileges Sheppard enjoys could possibly really have been privileges, thus making his situation so significantly different from that of other working poor to tip the odds of success well into his favor.

    No, we must maintain the myth of the meritocracy so we will always have the working poor for cheap labor, believing they, too, can one day make it by doing so, despite the overwhelming numbers that show the contrary is true.

    As long as the rich make the poor believe it is their own fault they are poor, the rich needn’t worry about the massive numbers and democratic power wielded by the poor to change the system…

    I also love the dichotomies the right pushes: you better work hard, 40-plus hours a week to pull yourself out of the gutter, oh, and you better raise your kids right, too! I’m not sure when the 36-hour day was implemented and human requirements for sleep and down-time were erased, but someone forgot to give me the latest update to reality.

    Advocates of this view like to pretend “their parents did it”, nevermind their parents worked less and made more and usually had one parent at-home, not out having to work, as most poor families do (and need).

    So, bitched at for not working themselves to the bone for success, then bitched at for not spending enough time raising their kids. The neo-cons sure have it covered, don’t they? End runs around the middle all the way. Reasonable answers to everything that are wholly unreasonable taken in context.

    Nah, all those people are just lazy, stupid, addicts. Forget ’em…

  • Daniel

    Adam Shepard is, in my opinion, not too different from what I call “Nomadic Trustafarians.” Picture this, young rich brats, usually just out of college (as Shepard) from areas of socio-economic deprivation like Lincoln and Duxbury, MA; most of Fairfield County, CT; Scarsdale and Great Neck, NY; Alpine and Summit, NJ; the “Main Line” near Philly, etc.

    These rich, college educated, but very naive people temporarily “go native” in many third world countries, notably Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Thailand. After spending 6-12 months “keeping it real” and eschewing western culture (except for the things these people “need,” such as a multi-band cell phone and an internet connection), they return to the Larchmonts and Marbleheads of America and act if they have been “transformed” by the experience.

    Here is an anecdotal account of “Muffie” calling her friend “Leesa” (notice the affectated spellings?). Muffie is just about to return to West Moneybucks, CT from 10 months in Costa Rica. Leesa returned from Nepal a week earlier. Of course, Leesa and Muffie want to get together to discuss how “fabulous” their slumming-it-with-the-natives experiences were.

    Leesa offers to pick up Muffie at JFK. Leesa told Muffie she will be driving “dad’s car.” “Oh, which one?,” Muffie asked. Leesa replied, without any tint of irony in her voice, “I’m not sure if I want to take the 2005 Jag, the 2003 BMW Convertible, or mom’s 2007 Acura MDX.” Muffie asked Leesa to take the Acura, since she thinks her backpack will fit best in the SUV.

    Just as most of his trustafarian brethren return “close to home” after about 10 months or so, Adam Shepard returned back to his wealthy North Carolina family, ostensibly due to “family problems.” HELLO? Poor people have family problems, also. However, the REAL poor cannot escape the “Trustafarian Disneyland” when there are family issues.

    These people must continue to WORK and SCRAPE BY in spite of whatever life throws at them. If these people are lucky enough to even have a car, it is likely out of warranty and prone to mechanical breakdowns.

    I would recommend this book to: People who drive around Wellesley, MA or Hewlett Neck, NY with a “Live Simply So Others May Simply Live” bumper sticker on the back of a two-year old Jaguar or Mercedes!

  • R

    If you want to discuss him, it might be appropriate to actually read his book. Daniel’s comment immediately above is especially amusing. The author says he’s … still driving that same secondhand truck he bought while working as a mover.

    But apparently to people here, having gone to college equates to living in the Hamptons or something.