After three years of collecting stories from the streets and data on homelessness from local and national newspapers, I am beyond excited to announce the release of my first book: Not So Simple: Observations on Poverty and People. Through this link, you can buy your copy of Not So Simple. In order to make a positive change in my community, all proceeds from Not So Simple will go to Project Understanding's 'Homeless to Housing' initiative.
Through poetry and photography, Not So Simple shares stories of those living on the streets, examines how poverty has persisted and gained ground in the United States, and provides a template for creating empathy and a human-centered approach to communities throughout the country.
When I started writing this book I wanted to amplify the voices of those living in an unfathomable reality. I wanted to challenge how we perceive those living on the streets. I wanted to hear their stories because I felt like everyone in our community deserves to be heard. So I did. Now I am sharing them with anyone who wants to listen.
When I first moved to California in 2012, I couldn’t believe the amount of people asking for help. Throughout my Ventura community, and while taking graduate school classes in Los Angeles, I saw a struggle that I never knew existed. Growing up on the East Coast I saw homelessness, but never to this extent. That’s when I started writing about what I saw. It turns out, I wasn’t the only one wondering how so many people could end up living on the margins of society.
Philip Alston, an Australian law professor who was appointed as a United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, also wondered how one of the wealthiest countries in the world could have such drastic inequality. He shared some of his conclusions on NPR in late December, and his full report is out this spring.
To get a better feel for Not So Simple, plus to better understand where the United States stands on poverty, I included three excerpts from his NPR interview:
In 2016, 40 million people — more than 1 in 8 citizens — lived in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"The face of poverty in America is not only black or Hispanic but also white, Asian and many other colors."
He found that stereotypes serve to undermine the poor — and are used to justify not coming to their aid. "So the rich are industrious, entrepreneurial, patriotic and the drivers of economic success. The poor, on the other hand, are wasters, losers and scammers,"
The amount of people in poverty, what they look like, and, most importantly, how we use language to categorize the rich from the poor, all aid in painting a general picture as to where our country stands in regards to poverty. I hope that Alston’s findings can be a starting point for our government, and subsequently our citizens, to change how we help and view those who are just barely able to get by.