[Hpn] Poverty Pimp article on Infishop news- Hope it's liked

jamieandjoe@mutualaid.org jamieandjoe@mutualaid.org
Wed, 24 Dec 2003 12:31:13 -0500 (EST)

Do you know a poverty pimp?
by  Jamie "Bork" Loughner

The winter holidays sometimes seem more like a time of greed for many
charity and social programs than a time to redouble efforts to aid the
poor. The poverty pimps put their hand out and look like every good and
helpful program out there. So how can you tell whom to support? And if you
work or volunteer in a program how do you know if it or some the people in
it deserve your support?

The term "poverty pimp" is defined as a derogatory label for an individual
or group which, to its own benefit, acts as an intermediary on behalf of
the poor. Literally, a poverty pimp is an individual or group who solicits
for the poor, or it can mean, a welfare system procurer. Poverty pimps
gain a higher quality of existence from exploiting the poverty of others.

Under the American system of inter-linked public and private social
services the poor get helped but not in any effective way; the big bucks
go for overhead. As always, a lot of anti-poverty money is going to people
who are not poor. There are whole classes of people who live off the
services provided to the poor.

True poverty pimps, however, are worse than just those who live off of
helping others. They are the ones who perpetuate poverty in order to keep
their job. They add more bureaucracy in order to expand their programs and
their power. They are motivated to grant charity to the less fortunate
rather than practice solidarity with the poor. They are the firms who
purposely overcharge and pad the bills, wasting money supposedly given to
help the poor. And poverty pimps spend 90 cents on every donated dollar on
administrative costs.

Poverty pimps are the workers and administrators who keep expanding the
public and private social services system, thereby expanding their job and
salary opportunities. They contribute more money to keep the cycle
eternal. They are the ones who make the system so challenging that you
practically need a college degree to navigate it, causing loads of
frustrated poor people to opt out of the system and often into the street.

Poverty pimps are the originally well-intentioned workers who have lost
sight of the poor as individuals and the ones who never really cared in
the first place. Essentially, "poverty pimps" callously and purposely
profit from the misfortune of others.

Every holiday season I think about the poverty pimps a little more. I
receive their solicitations for funding. As an activist on housing and
anti-poverty issues, I am given their requests for aid. I'm invited to
speak at their fundraisers. But, if I ask them to provide details on where
all their funds go, or how their budget is decided and by whom, they take
offense at my simple questions. Or if I ask if the majority of their
homeless clients were consulted in their decisions, or allowed to
participate in the decision-making process, it is as chilling to my
relationship with them as the kiss of death.

It really can be hard to evaluate if a group or individual is a poverty
pimp. So here are some examples my activist friends and I have seen of
poverty pimps (taken from real life in every case).

You know you're a poverty pimp...

1. When you are overheard saying that talking to the people you are
supposed to be helping makes you physically ill.
2. When you start a series of for-profit ventures to "fund" your
not-for-profit ...and you are much more involved in those.
3. When getting financial donations has become the vast majority of your
effort and time.
4. When you become really really good at using race, class and gender
discussions to prevent any criticism of what you are doing.
5. When your offices are furnished much better then anything your clients
will ever own in their entire lifetime.
6. When you feed people far worse things then you yourself would ever eat
or even give to your dog.
7. When that photograph of Billie Holiday is the only heroin addict ever
willingly allowed into your presence.
8. When you are happy hearing about squatters getting evicted.
9. When you find yourself thinking or saying that if one more homeless
person would freeze to death this winter, your budget for next year would
be assured.
10. When you leave your office in fear of the people your supposed to be
11. When you don't dare to answer the phone that rings at 2 am as it might
be one of your clients.
12. When you get that rush of fear from coming face to face with your
hungry clients out in front of the hotel as you enter your $500 dollar a
plate fundraiser.
13. When there is debate at your Conferance of Homeless Service Agencies
as to whether you will feed the homeless you brought in to speak at your
14. When you call the police to have that long-haired bearded guy arrested
for trying to teach your clients how fend for themselves for free.
15. When you're told to hide the city's free guide to homeless services so
that the clients have to come back over and over since your program gets
money each time they sign up... and you do it.
16. When your donation money is used politically to expand your nonprofit
operations, which allows you to pay more pimps’ salaries--that would seem
astronomical to the poor they are "serving." To organize the expansion of
your nonprofit organization which results in more political clout enabling
you to to get more public and private donation money.
17. When you've served as a shelter director for 20+ [or 10+ or 5+] years
and have no real idea where else the homeless could go or what happens to
the homeless that you've had to turn away.
18. You have to go to extraordinary lengths to keep those who are not poor
from seeing what your soup kitchen looks like on a "normal" day.
19. When you always, invariably cut services when decisions have to be
made between retaining services for the poor or laying off one or two
college-educated social workers who own their own home and whose
life-partners work.
20. When you spend much more of your time making the poor people you
"serve” jump through hoops and "hurdles" then actually filling their
21. When you spend 20 minutes lecturing a homeless person about not
selling goods you provide before giving them the single bus token they
need to leave your facility.
22. When you admit to having dreams about ways to make being poor as
difficult as possible for your clients... and you think some of them are
pretty good.
23. When your government funded housing program is designed with as many
hurdles as possible so that the vast majority of the poor can't qualify,
letting you sell the units at market rate.
24. When most of the money for your "advocacy " group goes for four star
hotels and your staff platinum credit card.
25. When you put barbed wire on your shelter fence and use the fear of
freezing to lock your clients in at night.
26. When you are asked to schedule your soup kitchen's meal times so the
homeless are less visible on the street to businessmen...and you do it.
27. When you don't care that you tell your homeless clients to call
several programs for help, then to call you back despite the fact you know
that they don't have 50 cents for the pay phone and you are likely to be
out of the office anyway.
28. When your advocacy group uses the threat of protests by the people you
represent as a way of exhorting donation money out of oppressive
corporations.... and without getting them to change their policies.
29. When you seek [usually white] middle-class prestige college-graduated
applicants who have rarely seen and never experienced poverty to manage
programs for the homeless rather then promote qualified [usually people of
color] ex-homeless already within your organization.
30. When you lie, claiming you don't have access to the keys, rather then
let the homeless go to the bathroom outside of your shelter's normal
31. When you fire any of your employees who criticize the social services
industry and your place in it.
32. When someone comments on how the numbers are declining at your shelter
and the first comment is: "Well, we wouldn't want to be out of a job or
33. When your job performance appraisal is tied to your willingness to
remove children from the homes of poverty stricken parents.
34. When most of your events feature open or cash bars though most of your
clients have drug or alcohol problems.
35. When you make over one hundred thousand dollors per year as your
clients eat out of garbage cans yet you are always grateful when others
point out your selflessness.
36. When the only decent food donations end up in your freezer and you
justify this by saying that there wasn't enough to serve everyone so it
might as well serve your holiday guests and not go to waste.
37. When you physically attack or permit your employees to attack your
clients when they insist on their right to a drink of water.
38. When you could care less that a group of large violent men actually
run the details of your shelter as you get paid well anyway and it saves
you from having to interact with your clients.
39. When your collect donation money in order to collect more donation money.
40. When your primary concern when entering into anti- poverty coalition
activities is who will get the credit.

And finally here is a poem I found on the net that shows some of the
Poverty Pimp's attitudes:


Let us celebrate the poor,
Let us hawk them door to door.

There's a market for their pain,
Votes and glory and money to gain.

Let us celebrate the poor.

Their ills, their sins, their faulty diction
Flavor our songs and spice our fiction.

Their hopes and struggles and agonies
Get us grants and consulting fees.

Celebrate thugs and clowns,
Give their ignorance all renown.

Celebrate what holds them down,
In our academic gowns.

Let us celebrate the poor

Bork is a homeless and affordable housing activist based in Washington,
DC. She is a member of Mayday DC, which conducts direct action and
education campaigns on housing and homeless issues. She is also a member
of the advisory board to Infoshop.org and AMP.