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HELPING NEIGHBORS: Harvest & Wine Festival organizer Colleen Neubauer, Neighbor by Neighbor Board member Leslie Wood, Neighbor by Neighbor Executive Director Peg Kohring, NBBA Board President Audrey Tuszynski, NBBA Board members Tracy Lauricella and Gary Wood, with a $700 donation from the NBBA. The money came from tips collected in the beer and wine tent at the Oct. 9 New Buffalo Harvest & Wine Fest.

“Anyone Who Has Struggled with Poverty Knows how Extremely Expensive It is to be Poor.”

– James Baldwin, African American Author

Someone reading this might be thinking, “Yeah right.” But once you learn more about it, it makes sense. Consider the following scenarios. A renter in a trailer park has her car break down and must pay for a $700 repair to be able to get to work. That $700 is not in her budget so she gets behind on lot rent. After the first five days behind in rent, the landlord adds a $50 late fee. If rent and the late fee are not paid by the 15th of the month, the landlord begins the eviction process which adds another $150 to the renter’s obligations.

A full-time employee is barely getting by has a toothache. He can’t take time off work to go to the dentist, and he can’t find an affordable dentist. He doesn’t have dental insurance – in fact, his job offers no benefits at all. A few months later, he has an abscess he tries to ignore as long as he can until he has to go to the emergency room. What might have been a filling is now an extraction and a crown or bridge. He’s also spent money he doesn’t have for prescriptions.

A young mother knows she needs new tires for her 2004 minivan that’s looking rusted and beat up. She’s terrified in winter that she won’t be able to stop on icy roads. Her worst case scenario happens and she gets in an accident and it is her fault because she could not stop from sliding into another car. She now has 4 bad tires and a major car repair. Another “expense of poverty” is only being able to afford to buy an old car with high mileage, resulting in frequent major repairs.

A man in his 20s thinks he’s pretty healthy and does not need health insurance. He makes too much to qualify for Medicaid and doesn’t want to pay for insurance via the Affordable Care Act. Lo and behold, his appendix blows up and he has to have an appendectomy. And the bill goes to him.

It’s not just in inner city Chicago or Detroit where low-income people struggle to buy fresh meat and produce because of “food deserts” – whole blocks without a chain grocery store or discount grocery store. Some rural residents have to travel long distances to take advantage of chain grocery stores. In a pinch, they go to more expensive convenience or mom and pop stores that don’t carry fresh meat and produce. The prices they pay are higher.

Utility companies send shut-off notices to customers two months behind. There was a moratorium during the worst of the pandemic, but that expired. Customers who hadn’t paid during the pandemic because they had only stimulus checks or unemployment suddenly had to catch up. Where’s that money supposed to come from? When utility companies shut off service, there is a hefty reconnect fee. If someone in poverty bounces a check, hefty bank fees are automatically assessed.

Credit scores matter much more than many low-income people know. Potential employers check credit scores to see if there will be high motivation to steal. Landlords check credit scores to weed out risky tenants. Lenders use credit scores to determine the rate of interest that will be charged for buying anything on credit. The worse the credit score, the higher the interest rate.

Now that the holiday season is upon us, it is time to think about our neighbors in need. In partnership with Church of the Mediator, 20 Neighbor by Neighbor families with children will receive turkeys and ingredients for all the traditional side dishes. There are many more clients who may not enjoy a holiday meal because of poverty. If you want to do something tangible, we suggest sending or dropping off gift cards, especially to Hardings or Meijers for groceries, a dollar store or for gasoline. Donations of funds, of course, are always welcome and can be mailed to Neighbor by Neighbor, P.O. Box 30, Union Pier, MI 49129. Office hours are generally 9 to 4 but it is best to call 269-231-0648 first if wanting to drop something off.

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