BC's working poor : How do you do it?

Kwantlen student Hailey Lawrence looks at a different type of poor, the working poor.

Old Shoe Woman/flickr

By Hailey Lawrence

Something strange happened to me the other day. I was sitting in class engaging in a group discussion about… yep, you guessed it, the poor.

Not the homeless you see on the side walk, but more specifically the “working poor”. A classmate brought up families who try to live on only $15 an hour, while having to pay rent, buy groceries, pay for daycare, keep the children clothed, put gas in the car etc.

After a short debriefing, the general consensus of the class was “How do those people do it?” Then the prof mentioned that the average annual income in BC is somewhere around $50,000 , at which point the room erupted.

Fired up again, classmates began protesting the “meagerness” of a salary, and statements such as “no one can live on that little” and “they probably deserve it” were frequent.

Now I am usually very vocal and quite effective at voicing my opinions, however I merely sat in my chair, my brain silently exploding. My family made $14,000 last year after taxes. And I would love to make 15 bucks an hour. It’s taken me a lot of time, strength, hope, determination and a hell of a lot of help from others to get me to Kwantlen.

A close friend always reminds me that education is going to save my life, and I believe him. Yet it was weird and angering listening to how my classmates all referred to (me essentially) as “other people, never going to make it, a factory worker, flipping burgers, no education, lowlifes of society, people with issues, hard family life, drugs, medication etc”.

I once again felt weak and stupid. It was another reinforcement that those born into comfortable positions in society are always seen in a better light than those at the bottom, even if the reasons for being in said low position are beyond their control. I find it ironic (and I’m sure I speak for more than just myself) that even in the institution of society that’s going to change my life eventually, that was one more reminder I’m just another faceless member of the working poor….