Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

May 18, 2014

Poverty in the Lock City

(Continued)

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Wheeler said he’s had people come in and ask for help paying their utility bill. When they go over the person’s expenditures for the month, they find that they’re paying $120 for cable, instead of paying the electric bill.

“To them, the cable is more important,” he said, noting that entertainment makes people living in poverty feel normal. “If the electricity is turned off, the TV isn’t going to work.”

Low expectations come along with the mindset of poverty, Wheeler said. 

“The thinking leads to taking what you can get rather than aiming for what you can get,” he said. “If the best you can get is a small, one-bedroom apartment with cockroaches, you accept that, rather than saying, ‘I’m not going to put up with that.’ In their life, there’s no reason to make anything better. It’s ‘this is what I get.’ “

Through the work the Grigg Lewis Foundation has been doing, they’ve learned that poverty isn’t something they can “fight,” Smith said. 

“What we can do is get people focused out of poverty,” she said. 

One way to do that, Wheeler said, is to work with children in poverty, and give them the hope that they can do better for themselves. He’s had 10- and 11-year-old children tell him that their dream in life is to collect their own welfare check, or work at McDonald’s part-time.

“Whatever happened to owning a mansion or driving a Rolls?,” he said. “They don’t have that dream. It’d be nice to have a Mercedes in the driveway, but not for them. They don’t think it’s possible, so they just mentally give up.” 

It is possible to impart in children that they can achieve more in life, Wheeler said. 

“The McDonald’s kid did get into college,” he said.

This is the first part of a series on poverty in Lockport. Future articles will take an in-depth look at some of the specific poverty-related problems in Lockport, and what's being done about them.

Contact reporter Michael Canfield at 439-9222, ext. 6246, or follow him on Twitter @MikeCanfield36.

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