From our Community

Stealing American Voices

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The world’s media is on fire, clamoring to tell the story of Wanda Witter, the 80-year-old pensioner owed $100,000 by the government. Condemned as crazy, this inspiring woman spent over a decade living in poverty on the streets of Washington, relentlessly calling Social Security’s toll-free number – one of the few resources she had access to – trying to get help, to retrieve the money that would take her away from the dangers and degradation of the streets.

For over 16 years, Wanda Witter was dismissed as crazy. Not because of her actions, character, or reasoning, but because she was homeless. It seems incomprehensible that, in an age where 40% of Americans are one paycheck away from poverty, we could be so contemptuous of destitution. Because Wanda Witter isn’t the exception, she’s the rule.

Millions of hardworking, highly skilled Americans (Wanda is a trained paralegal) just like her find themselves in similarly untenable positions and, seeing them in those situations, we silence them. Even in our nation’s glittering capital, where the political elite make decisions that ripple across the entire world, the homeless are less than human. They have no voice, no rights, and no respect.

Are we all so arrogant that we can look at someone on the street and not see an intelligent, feeling human being? Are we so afraid of the stories these people have to tell that we silence them? If you lost your job tomorrow, how long would it be before you were sitting next to Wanda Witter, watching hoards of well-dressed, well-fed citizens stream past you as you starved quietly on the sidewalk?

Wanda’s story shows us just how deep our distaste for poverty runs. It demonstrates the strength of the stigma surrounding unemployment. It shows us how wrong our judgments are, and proves just how desperately we need a portal like First Ink. God gave each of us a voice; we have no right to steal a single one.

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