Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

Barriers to the Success of the Poor

Carol Burt
9 min readSep 12, 2022

I once wrote a human interest article for a newspaper about a woman with three children living in a tent with cardboard boxes for a floor. They had been living in the tent in the woods for months, and she was dreading the oncoming winter. She had a job but couldn’t afford housing.

My photographer and I had to hitch a ride in a brush buggy built to go through wetland woods to get to her. She and her sons walked to the tent because she had no car, and she had pitched it as far back from the road as she could in hopes no one would see them and make them leave the property.

This wasn’t in some third-world country. It was in the US south and not far from a bustling town. It was fall, and she was dreading the cold winter coming and the hoard of hunters who would soon descend on any unmarked land.

I can’t remember the whole story because it was 30 years ago. Still, after the story was published, she got several offers for better places to live and other help, too. Her life changed because I got a tip and did a story. But it didn’t help the others in the same or worse situations.

There are so many others.

I wondered today why I’ve never written about a particular couple I know who are also prime examples of the struggling poor. It is a fallacy that hard work will always keep one out of the poorhouse.

I hate winter. It’s hard to sleep at night knowing so many people have no warmth, no cozy comforter, and no reliable heat in their homes — if they even have homes. Things will only get worse for them as winter comes — as it does for so many people.

They call him Bird.

Back to the couple I was talking about. They live in the Ozark Mountain foothills. The husband has the nickname “Bird” because he climbs and cuts down trees for a living and is at home high in a tree. He has a reputation as one of the best. But he has to work for himself because he has a felony on his record from a drug charge 20 years ago. That keeps a lot of companies from hiring him. Even though he has friends in the industry who would love to have him working for them, the big lumber companies, power companies, etc., have rules against hiring…

Carol Burt

Former print journalist, former mayor, retired law enforcement officer. Writing about politics and government along with random personal essays.