Dr. Donna M. Beegle
Breaking Barriers -
Concrete tools for working with
people in poverty
Perception: How our mind makes sense of our
Membership: Our description of the world
Identification: Symbolic rebirth
Motivation: The “why” behind our behavior
– Family has never owned land
– Never knew anyone who benefited from education
– Never knew anyone who moved up or was respected in a job
– Highly mobile
– High family Illiteracy
– Focus is on making it through the day
• Working Class Poverty
– Working, but rarely have money for any extras
– Most do not own property
– Live paycheck to paycheck
– Few have health care
– Focus on making it two weeks or through the month
– Poverty seen as personal deficiency
- Have little or no resources
- Language & culture barriers
- Seem to do better than those born into poverty in America
- Poverty viewed as a system problem
Depression Era Poverty
- A time when the societal message was, “We are all in this together.”
- Poverty seen as society problem
•Middle Class Temporary/Situational Poverty
- Person grows up in stable environment
- Surrounded by people who are educated or able to earn a living wage
- Attends school regularly
- Has health care
- Has crisis (health, Divorce, etc.) and ncome drops
- Generally is able to make it back to middle class
- Has not internalized the poverty as their own fault
• Oral Culture
• Print Culture
• Relationships: At the heart of everything. First priority.
• Spontaneous: Desire for variety. Ability to “go with the flow.”
Change subjects with ease.
• Repetition: Storytelling and repeating stories are important for
• Holistic: Focus on the “BIG picture.” Tendency to take in
everything going on around them.
• Emotional: Comfort with emotions. Shows emotions readily in
most any situation. Open to self-disclosing private details.
• Present Oriented: Highly in-tune with the here and now.
• Agonistic: More physical.
• Interrupting: There are no periods in verbal communication.
• Self Disclosure: Share intimate details for connections
• Linear: Organizes thoughts & actions by “first this, then this”
• Time: At the heart of everything. High priority on daily activities.
• Analytic/Abstract: Knowledge is outside of self. Ability to step
back from a situation, separate & disconnect self from what is
• Self-Disciplined/Focus: Strong ability to shut out sensory data
and focus on one idea at a time.
• Delay Gratification: Strong understanding of relationships
• Strategize: Ability to plan ahead, set goals, focus on future.
Break things into parts, connect small efforts to reach end
• 1. Believe in the person they are
• 2. Believe there is a way out of
• 3. Are bi-cultural:
– * Understand structural causes of
– * Are aware of the history of
poverty in the U.S.
– * Know poverty related facts about
– * Are able to suspend judgment
• 4. Open your personal network to the
people you are working with
• 5. Teach those you are working with
how to build a network
Family Photos Auctioned Off
Four of Five Brothers - 1999
Met at 12 - Married at 15
Future WIC Baby – Jennifer
Danny - Born Healthy
Jennifer goes to France - Twice
y Family Today
1)The wealthy Native American woman opened her purse.
2)The purse contained money.
3)The wealthy Native American woman had opened the door to her car.
4)The middle-class African American man was a thief.
5)The poor white parking garage attendant was the man at the car door.
6)The middle-class African American man took the contents of the purse.
7)There was a man inside the car.
8)The middle-class African American took the money.
9)The wealthy Native American woman owned the car.
10) The middle-class African American man was a passenger in the car.
Good ideas are not adopted
automatically. They must be driven
into practice with courageous
-- Hyman Rickover