The Changing Face of Poverty


I have lived here in the Imperial Valley for over 50 years and we are one of the poorest communities in the state.


I am not going to get into statistics because if you don’t know we are poor, well who am I to burst your bubble? I have been poor. I graduated from one of the best universities in the country, UCSD. Afterwards, for about a year and a half, I worked part-time as a truck driver for $3.00 an hour. There was bit of a recession going on then too.


I lived off of an income of $240.00 a month. Luckily, I was living rent-free on a boat in a construction yard. I was also poor in graduate school when we became parents. Medical helped pay for all the baby’s and mom’s medical costs. I am a grateful taxpayer. I became a taxpayer at the age of 14 when I worked in an onion seed mill. I am now 61 and I am also a happy taxpayer if you can believe it.


The War on Poverty has been going on since the 60’s and we are going to lose another battle, with the beef plant closing. We are still losing the war on poverty, and the future looks bleak. There are two main reasons for poverty and if you want to be poor, keep reading. If you don’t want to be poor, follow a few simple directions.


If you don’t want to be poor, say no to sex before marriage. Pre-marital sex not only leads to babies, but relationship breakdown. It is hard to work when you are pregnant and hard to go to work when you have a baby in the house.


Our society does a great job of encouraging sex outside of marriage. Unfortunately, the media, youth and many twisted family values all work together—both for the decline of stable marital relationships, and for decreasing one’s earning potential. Parenting outside of marriage also makes it harder to finish your education, either high school or college.


I have a scholarship for parenting high school seniors (the “Mary Shinn Scholarship”), to encourage young parents to continue their college education. This and other scholarships are available at


The other way to keep you income low, is to get high. Our society is in a rush to legalize marijuana, but the drug revolution has translated into lower achievement in schools and higher achievement in the criminal justice system. Drinking, drugging, snorting and shooting all are parts of a lose-out lifestyle. Not only does being hung over or high interfere with your job search skills, it also makes it hard to overcome the lifestyle liabilities.


Who wants to answer the question, “Have you ever been arrested?” Being high (“out of touch with reality”), leads to laziness and unrealistic thinking. You will never hear these words: “My grades were lousy and then I started smoking marijuana and now I am on the Honor Roll.”


The face of poverty hasn’t really changed. Poverty is mostly women and children that have been abandoned by men. Many of the men drink and drug, and so do some of the women, but many do not. They are too busy trying to survive as a single-parent with little education. If you can say no to sex, drugs and alcohol, it is very realistic that you will be facing life in the middle class, which is much better than facing the alternatives.