Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty. They’re Not.

Articles | September 17 2018
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By Matthew Desmond

Vanessa Solivan and her three children fled their last place in June 2015, after a young man was shot and killed around the corner. They found a floor to sleep on in Vanessa’s parents’ home on North Clinton Avenue in East Trenton. It wasn’t a safer neighborhood, but it was a known one. Vanessa took only what she could cram into her station wagon, a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica, letting the bed bugs have the rest.

At her childhood home, Vanessa began caring for her ailing father. He had been a functional crack addict for most of her life, working as a landscaper in the warmer months and collecting unemployment when business slowed down. “It was something you got used to seeing,” Vanessa said about her father’s drug habit. “My dad was a junkie, but he never left us.” Vanessa, 33, has black hair that is usually pulled into a bun and wire-framed glasses that slide down her nose; a shy smile peeks out when she feels proud of herself.

Vanessa’s father died a year after Vanessa moved in. The family erected a shrine to him in the living room, a faded, large photo of a younger man surrounded by silk flowers and slowly sinking balloons. Vanessa’s mother, Zaida, is 62 and from Puerto Rico, as was her husband. She uses a walker to get around. Her husband’s death left her with little income, and Vanessa was often broke herself. Her health failing, Zaida could take only so much of Vanessa’s children, Taliya, 17, Shamal, 14, and Tatiyana, 12. When things got too loud or one of her grandchildren gave her lip, she would ask Vanessa to take her children somewhere else.  (Read more)