scribbles tagged ‘poverty’

unhealthy responsibility

Monday, October 27th, 2014 | tags:  |

Wendy: watches the lady behind the cash till type in the numbers and wince. “Are you alright?”

Cash teller: No, it’s my foot

Wendy: It looks very painful, is there anything I can do, can you call someone to help?

Cash teller: It is very painful, (winces) there’s only me, no one else in the store, I can’t close up

I don’t know what to do. I look at the long line behind me that she has to deal with and say loudly

take care, these people don’t want you to be in pain and we’d help if we knew how to”. Most of them look away, one nods his head in silence

unhealthy responsibility
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work ethic

Monday, June 9th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

Istanbul street vendoTurkey was a big surprise in many ways.

The country feels ‘rich’. Rich with water, it’s very green with many fields full of healthy looking crops. The countryside is littered with Dams and windfarms.  The roads are smooth surfaced and clearly being resurfaced regularly.

During my 2 weeks there I never saw a beggar, though they clearly have many very poor people. The poverty is evidenced by the many people doing jobs that rarely exist in places like the UK or USA. These people are selling food and flowers to drivers through the Istanbul traffic jams on a 3 lane motorway.

Istanbul street vendorCan you imagine collecting stuff to sell, walking onto a motorway and tapping on the windows of the drivers to try and get a little money for your efforts?



work ethic
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Streets in the sky

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

I first heard of the Park Hill estate during my undergraduate environmental psychology classes in 1986.  The architect’s, Ivor Smith and Jack Lynn’s, vision for a high rise estate to replace sprawling slums in the northern English city of Sheffield with “Streets in the Sky”. Streets in the sky would recreate the strengths of the communities which had flourished in the back to back slums and provide improved living conditions at a bargain price. Taking people out of small, damp, Victorian terraces where  kids played in the streets and giving them streets in the sky with views over the city, inside toilets, covered walkways, balcony’s where children could play and neighbours could chat, with room for attractive open park land around the high rise buildings.  Smith and Lynn’s designs were heavily influenced by Le Corbuiser’s Breton Brut as evident in his Marseilles Unité d’Habitation. Breton Brut became known in Britain as ‘Brutalism’,  simple functional form. They wanted to build in a sense of neighbourliness into these functional spaces.

These changes were intended to improve the standard of living for people now living in a slum area locally know as ‘Little Chicago’ in the gangster era.  The Park Hill estate was completed in 1961 with 995 flats that could house over two thousand people overlooking Sheffield city centre. Front doors opened to a 12 ft wide balcony, a street, that runs right across the estate over bridges between buildings.  Milk floats could trundle from door to door along streets named the same asthose in the original slums they replaced.  People that were neighbours in the slums were rehoused next to each other.

Worthy, admirable intentions

When built,  the social ideal didn’t happen

The estate soon became known as Sheffield’s San Quentin. The failure of the original design vision has been blamed on many things including

  • easy access routes for muggers
  • poor sound insulation
  • the streets being open to the inclement Sheffield weather
  • the building’s ugliness
  • the poverty of the occupants

In 1998 Park Hill became the largest grade 2  listed building in europe.

This centruy English Heritage, Urban Splash and Sheffield city council have been renovating Park Hill.

It’s difficult to tell from the publicity what is being changed to make the project work  as a successful place to live this time. A recent BBC TV programme about the renovation focussed on English heritage’s aesthetic and structural requirements for preservation not mentioning any changes to the space aimed at improving the occupants expereince of living there. The programme made the vision appear less social that the original. So what will have changed since it first opened?  It looks like the renovation will be

  • It’s prettier with bright rainbow colours
  • occupants will not all be council tenants, some will be home owners and some shared ownership. They will be a different socio-economic mix
  • the streets will not be open to the Sheffield weather
  • living there comes with the kudos of living in a classic listed building
Streets in the sky
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3 meals a day

Friday, February 12th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Aquaintance: you are looking really lythe, you’ve lost a lot of weight* since I last saw you, what diet are you on?

Small Business Owner (SBO): the poverty diet

Aquaintance: [silence]

SBO: eating one meal every three days is a sure way to quickly  get really lythe

3 meals a day
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Nickel and Dimed

Saturday, June 25th, 2005 | tags: , , ,  |

On (not) getting by in America

By Barbara Ehrenreich.


This book provided me with a powerful insight into a part of America I dont really experience,   except as a consumer.   Here are a few quotes that stayed with me:

No job, no matter how lowly,   is truely ‘unskilled’”   As Barbara tries out different jobs,   through cleaner to  waitress to big store assistant (Walmart),   she takes us through the different things she learns to be effective in that job and paints sympathetic pictures of her colleagues.

One of Barbara’s most powerful conclusions that she backs with formal data is that

Something is wrong,   very wrong, when a single person in good health,   a person who in addition posseses a working car can barelt support herself by the sweat of her brow.   You dont need a dregree in econonomics to see that wages are too low and rents too high

Barbara had no problem finding work,   one and sometimes two jobs.   Her major challenge included  finding  affordable accomodation,   arranging transport to and from work.   Any money left over after that was used for food.   Often she was simply unable to balance her income and outgoings.

I would highly recommend this book,   it provides many subtle and vaired descriptions of the forces that together constrain the poor to remaining poor and implies potential solution routes.   All this is wrapped within readable stories of the authors own experiences and challenges.



Nickel and Dimed
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