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POVERTY VERSUS DESTITUTION


Posted on November 11, 2013 

Our founder, Michael Craig, provides his perspective on the difference between being poor, which many of have been at some time in our life, and the destitute elderly in developing countries.
How did you know?

I grew up in the Republic of Ireland in the fifties and sixties, which was a time of great social and economic depression. The great famine, which killed millions, was still in living memory. We had just come through two world wars, the rebellion of 1916 and the subsequent civil war, which led to the creation of the Republic. The new nation was struggling and so were its people. Everything was in a state of flux.

Rationing as a result of WW ll was still in effect and as it lessened prices were outrageous. In my small town everybody was poor. We lived from paycheck to paycheck, which was every Friday. Neighbors borrowed and shared with each other to survive the midweek lean days. My family was poor! But we were never destitute! We always had hope and friends and neighbors who were likewise poor but a community of support. I think I was in college before I realized that I had grown up poor. What has this got to do with Michael’s House Inc.?

When we began our mission in 2003 we identified the ”destitute elderly” as our concern. Too frequently this has been equivocated to the “poor elderly”. This is perhaps understandable because in the United States of America we are used to and exposed to the classification “poor” but rarely to the term “destitute”. Without an understanding of the difference between poverty and destitution it would be difficult to understand what Michael’s House is all about.

Poverty does not necessarily mean destitution. One can be poor and not destitute, as is true in most cases! We understand poverty as economic inequality. It is the state of one who lacks a certain
amount of material possessions or money, which creates extreme but bearable hardship. Poverty may be transitional or permanent. Many of us were all poor at some time.

Destitution is a very different condition. Destitution refers to the deprivation of basic essential human needs which commonly includes food, water, shelter, medicine, clothing or a community support system. You can suffer from poverty but be nowhere near destitution, and if you are destitute, you are way beyond being poor. You have basically nothing; no means of living or providing for yourself or others. I often compare destitution to someone who is trapped in a collapsed building unable to help themselves and crying out for help with nobody to hear them. They are trapped, immobilized and despairing of hope. They can do nothing to help themselves. Their cry is just a whisper. They have long abandoned expectations for help.

Thankfully we have collaborators from charities in the field who bring them to our attention. Their need is always immediately urgent.

Please continue to help us in our work for the destitute aged.

Michael Craig, Founder



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