As Lorraine Cameron walked through her three-bedroom house in Germantown she recalled what she will miss most when she becomes homeless.
Cameron, 54, has worked since she was 14. She has found herself without an income for the first time after being fired from her care-taking job. She said she returned from taking time off to tend to her newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure to discover that she’d been terminated without notice weeks before.
Using the last of her unemployment payments, Cameron paid the rent on her three-bedroom home until July 2014. With less than a week left in June, Cameron is facing the reality of having no money and nowhere to turn.
“My self-esteem was attached to working,” said Cameron. “I’ve always had money. I’ve worked since I was 14 years old scrubbing walls in people’s houses, so I’ve always worked. I’m not feeling very happy not having a job.”
In a city like Philadelphia, Cameron’s situation is not unique. According to the 2013 Census, the average household income in Philadelphia is about $20,000 less than the national average. In 24 of Philadelphia’s 46 ZIP codes, families go hungry, most with annual household incomes less than $15,000. Philadelphia’s deep poverty rate, defined by households that makes less than $8,687 a year, is the highest among the nation’s largest cities.
In a city with more than one-third of its population struggling to subsist, the issue remains largely unsolved. Lydian Gajdel is the North Philadelphia site coordinator of LIFT, a goal-orientated nonprofit aimed at alleviating the impact of poverty. According to Gajdel, poverty is a pervasive force not simply because of the lack of material resources it creates, but because of the mentality it instills in people.
“True poverty is poverty of the soul,” said Gajdel. “When you don’t have those physical things it does really horrible things to who you are as a person…it eats away at your want to have power over your own life.”
For Cameron, not letting poverty define her life is paramount. Despite her lack of income and the reliance she has on services provided by civic organizations, Cameron does not consider herself poor and says that mentality is one that helps her rise above her socio-economic struggles.
“There’s a lot of things I can do and I feel like I’m just starting to tap into them because I’m out of work,” said Cameron. “I needed this break even though it happened this way, I’m not happy about that, but that’s what I want everybody to know. It’s not the end of the world when you lose your job or become homeless.”
https://vimeo.com/98981991 w=500 h=375]
– Text, video and images by Meaghan Pogue.