March 9, 2017
It’s Too Easy for Us to Ignore ALICE
By Rob Lee
I read with sadness about ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) in last week’s paper.
Alice waits on me most every day of my life. She serves up my toast and eggs. She washes my car, hands me my dry cleaning and smiles at me when I pay for my gas. I don’t pay much attention to her, but she is always there to serve my demands and needs.
Alice has always been a part of our lives. Since any of us can remember, she has been quietly taking care of us and delivering necessary services. She is almost a member of our family, but we barely know her. Yes, we give her Christmas cash and listen to her occasional stories. The truth is, we don’t really want to know her well. We know that her life is hard.
Frankly, we don’t want to be inconvenienced by her problems. Too much familiarity would make things awkward and uncomfortable between us.
After all, Alice did make some bad choices that landed her in this bad situation. She should have gone to college or learned a trade. Alice’s mom told her not to marry right after high school, but she was young and in love. It was good at first, until the honeymoon wore off and hard times set in.
Alice got a job waiting tables and works at the outlet most nights. Alice and her kids struggle just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.
Yes, it is best to keep some distance between us. We all like Alice well enough, but we are in a hurry to get to the big concert, celebration dinner or the charity ball. It would be embarrassing to give her money. It is important to allow her to have some pride. Besides, we all have our own problems. We have mortgages, car payments, kids in college and tons of other financial obligations.
We had to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. She needs to find her own solutions. We don’t owe her anything. Handouts make people weak. Right?
••• The United Way began ALICE studies about two years ago. ALICE is an acronym for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed. The ALICE project defined the poverty level in a different way by analyzing key metric groups.
The effort looked at employment, food costs and population to determine poverty’s impact. We reported in our Feb. 28 feature that 40 percent of Charlotte County households and 33 percent of Sarasota County households are below the ALICE poverty level threshold.
The United Way is working to help these families with their critical needs. Financed by the Community Impact Fund, it is guided by three key goals: financial stability, education and health and wellness. These goals each address the issues of generational as well as situational poverty and all are intertwined in order to help ALICE families overcome the obstacles, both short and long term.
Rob Lee is publisher of the Sun Newspapers. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.