“On Compassion” by Barbara Lazear Ascher, “Serving in Florida” by Barbara Ehrenreich and “On Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner make a reader rethink homelessness. People who are down on their luck often have no actual shelter, do not own much clothing and eat unhealthy food since their budget for groceries is limited, or there is none. The authors discuss in their essays how the poor have to struggle in their lives to survive in today’s world.
As Ehrenreich finds out in her essay “Serving in Florida,” even those who work full-time jobs often can’t provide a natural place to live for themselves. Ehrenreich’s coworkers live in trailers, cars, hotels or “crowded” apartments (154). As Ehrenreich admits going through her low-wage experience, she wouldn’t be doing as well as she did without the deposit for housing she started with. “I’d been feeling pretty smug about my $500 efficiency, but of course it was made possible only by the $1,300 I had allotted myself for start-up costs” (Ehrenreich 155).
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $14
Prices start at $12
In her essay, Ascher points out how hard it is for the homeless to survive in cold weather. The author writes about the homeless who find refuge at the railroad stations like Grand Central or Pennsylvania Station. Also, she observes that the homeless often are placed in the local hospitals during the wintertime. “As winter approaches, the mayor of New York City is moving the homeless off the streets and into Bellevue Hospital” (Ascher 57).
Eighner, who experienced homelessness in his life, writes how easy it is to lose a house. Before he became homeless, he lived in the house on Avenue B in Austin. Unfortunately, after losing a job, his savings ran out pretty quickly. Even though he put all of his money into rent and tried to survive by getting supplements by dumpster diving after a period he landed on the street anyway ( Eighner 162). In a human being’s life, shelter plays one of the most critical roles. Unfortunately, as all of the authors conclude, it is more challenging to maintain a house as it may seem to many, especially those who live secure lives in the upper or middle class.
More fortunate people have access to deposits for housing, unlike the poor, who have to struggle hard to provide for themselves a place to live. Food is another crucial aspect of humans’ lives. Ehrenreich gives in her essay an example of people who can’t afford kitchen supplies, thus aren’t able to cook nutritious food. They end up eating “fast food or hot dogs or Styrofoam cups of soup that can be microwaved in a convenience store” (Ehrenreich 155). On the other hand, Ascher notices, homeless often get food from kind human beings. She gives the readers an example of a homeless man who gets fed by a small French bread shop (Ascher 57).
In his essay, Eighner writes that the only place he could get food as a homeless were dumpsters. He spends a good portion of his essay describing dumpster diving. He writes how hard it is and how careful a homeless has to be to evaluate if the found food is still edible or not. Clearly, just like all other living creatures, a human being needs food to survive. If a human is starving he/she is willing to do anything to satisfy the hunger. Therefore, if the poor can’t afford the food they eat whatever they can find, for instance in dumpsters. Or if lucky, they may get it as an offering from generous people.
Clothing maybe isn’t as significant as shelter or food, but it also plays an important role in humans’ lives. As Ehrenreich writes, her coworkers’ clothes other than those required for work comes from thrift shops (154). Moreover, Asher gives a clear picture of a homeless person, “a buttonless shirt, with one sleeve missing, hangs outside the waist of his baggy trousers” (56). The authors prove in their essays that the poor do not own much clothing; obviously, they usually have no place to keep it or/and no money to buy it.
All three authors seem to define impoverished people in a similar way. They all prove how tremendously the poor have to struggle in their lives to get basic needs to live (like shelter, food and clothing). Also, each one of three essays seems to be a reminder to all the people who have forgotten about humanity and care less about unfortunate human beings. Hopefully, reading those essays will influence and inspire at least some people so society can finally start a real fight against poverty.
- Asher Lazear, Barbara. “On Compassion.” 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. 2nd ed. Ed.
- Samuel Cohen. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2007. 56-59.
- Ehrenreich, Barbara. “Serving in Florida.” 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. 2nd ed. Ed.
- Samuel Cohen. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2007. 151-160.
- Eighner, Lars. “On Dumpster Diving.” 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. 2nd ed. Ed.
- Samuel Cohen. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2007. 161-173.