Two Eastern Washington University professors spoke on the struggles of poverty and homelessness in Tuesday night’s Honors Colloquium at Edwards Auditorium.
Johnny Cake Center Executive Director Kate Brewster introduced professors Deanna Trella and Timothy Hilton to start the presentation. Brewster said the research conducted by these two professors displays a “national perspective to a serious local problem.”
Trella and Hilton’s presentation focused on understanding the cycle of poverty based on research gathered over the course of their careers. Both have spent a significant amount of time analyzing various categories of homelessness and how to better understand it.
“The goal of our research is to understand poverty from the inside out,” Hilton said, when explaining the purpose of their years of research.
Hilton discussed the unique challenges that homeless people face day-to-day. He interviewed over 100 people whom lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that were homeless or poverty stricken, and some said they barely scrape by while others struggled to meet basic living needs. Hilton began to investigate the reasons why people become homeless and how it impacts their lives. There were multiple interview recordings during the presentation where individuals described how they live with no food, water, or shelter. A pattern in the results was that people who were on the brink of homelessness, or were homeless, frequently relied on their relationships with others to survive, Hilton said.
Another common result of these interviews was that people who were homeless by themselves were able to survive utilizing social services more than people who were homeless with children or family members.
According to Trella, homeless people with children are more reluctant to reach out for aid because of fear for losing their children.
“Fear of services is real,” Trella said.
A recording of a woman and her child explained the risk of having your child taken away from you when utilizing social services.
One common feeling that overwhelms many homeless people with children was embarrassment.
“There was an inherent rationale behind driving a lot of the choices they made,” Trella said. “These parents know what it means to be good parents, they are no different than you or I.”
Most of the interviewees that had children stressed how important it was for them to provide their child with food on their plate and a roof over their head. Access to public institutions such as healthcare and education is more difficult for homeless families to utilize because of transportation reasons.
There are programs currently in action that provide children that become homeless with transportation. Hilton described a resolution that requires schools to provide help to children that become homeless and allow them to continue school. According to Hilton, making services convenient and accessible is one of the key factors in resolving the issue of homelessness and poverty.
The next Honors Colloquium will speak to gender inequality and the American dream at 7 p.m. in Edwards Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 18.