Poverty in Charlottesville

In this week’s C-Ville, Jayson Whitehead provides a lengthy piece about poverty in the Charlottesville area (20% live below the federal poverty line) for which he spent a day working as a day laborer, doing the sort of basic investigative journalism that we don’t see much around here. He also grabs dinner at Holy Comforter, visits with Holly Edwards at Westhaven Clinic, and checks out the Tom Shadyac-funded conversion of First Christian Church to a multipurpose facility for the homeless and poor.

8 thoughts on “Poverty in Charlottesville”

  1. It was a very good article and deeply disturbing to me. And you’re right, no one does any investigative reporting anymore.

  2. Very nice piece indeed. I was happy to see the mention of health care as a big issue and contributor to the problem. And a nice bit on both Holy and Tom. Wow, investigative journalism. Who knew. Nice work Jayson!

    20% is quite high. I think it’s time to do a little volunteering to see if I can help.

  3. I thought it was a nice article, as well. My only beef was his referral to a co-worker at the day labor agency, a man with an admitted drug addiction who was recieving services for his problem as “the crackhead.” Not so nice.

  4. He also “broke” the NGIC/Wendell Wood/Supes story. That’s quite a roll he’s on these days. Too bad he’ll get scooped up and make his way out of town before too long.

  5. “We’re just trying to help people get back on their feet,”

    No. They’re trying to make a profit off the most disadvantaged (which the article refers to as “the butt of civilization.”}.

    There just seems something “wrong” about a temp agency (Labor Ready) putting themselves in the position of the middle man/go between for employers and day labor and collecting a commission on each hour that day laborer has worked that day.

    The day laborers would probably be making 10/hr instead of 7.50/hr if Labor Ready weren’t there to take a cut of the action.

    After lunch, I asked the forklift operator if they use Labor Ready much. “Yeah, but there’s so much turnover,” he said. “One guy might just work one day so he can get enough money for crack.” His words were borne out by one of the Labor Ready workers, an older man who had to leave mid-morning to report to his drug treatment supervisor.

    And from reading the article there seems to be no real advantage to using that Temp agency either since you wind up with the same employee problems as if you hired them off the street corner yourself. Which is usually why they are “Day Labor” instead of “regularly employed.”

    It’s a good article but it falls short. It paints the poor as sporadically employed, occasionally homeless, people who frequently need to use soup kitchens and food banks. It falls back on the cliches.

    It gives one paragraph to “the working poor,” those working 2 or more jobs weekly, and calls them “just one segment of an overall population that exists under the poverty line.” When they are the largest segment. People you see every day working in any number of service industry jobs at businesses that many people patronize daily. They are, as they are in this article, largely invisible.

  6. Businessweek has this on “Labor Ready”:

    Since its founding 17 years ago, the company has become the nation’s largest provider of day laborers, cutting checks to more than 600,000 people a year. It charges employers about $13.50 an hour and pays its workers about $7.50, minus their share of taxes.

    That’s a 6 dollar difference. A six dollar per hour profit off of a day laborer.

    Plus in the past they’ve come under fire for: Charging fees to cash the checks issued at the end of the day’s employment. Failing to pay “the prevailing wage” on publicly financed projects. Charging fees to employees for safety equipment which is necessary for a job site. Not to mention their definition of “Hours worked” which came under fire in California.

    It doesn’t sound like the type of company that is on the up and up. Much less a company I would be trumpeting as one that works to help the poor.

  7. As the former acting manager for the Charlottesville Labor Ready Branch #8057, I was intrigued by your article about the poor and homeless people in Charlottesville. Yes it’s true, like “Alvin Jackson” said, “they put people to work”. But here are some observations that I made working there, and they are just my opinion.

    First, I have seen several other Labor Ready Branches in the district that I was assigned, and there all the same. They find the poorer parts of town, open a branch and sell labor. All you need to work there is two forms of I.D., and to qualify to work there. I dealt with people straight out of prison, and every low life bum, and transient. There were some good people too!

    Truth is, just like the local rental stores, check cashing places, and some of the car stores, these companies do one thing….THEY TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE POOR! When I attended a meeting in Florida, the Vice President, told a story of getting a sandwich from a homeless person when he was hitchhiking as a college student on his way to somewhere. And he decided to help the poor people.

    Some of the time, that’s true, but most, it’s taking advantage of poor people. These people work, and most of them have children, which they don’t pay for, (WE DO), so the 7.50 an hour, for eight hours, ends up being garnished, and they take home 20 bucks. Although they suffer, it’s the children who suffer the most. No dad, no food, no money, and the vicious cycle continue.

    So, my thought is this, there’s so many poor people, and its not going to stop, until we start taking a look at why they are poor. I bought a car, had to fill out a application, same with my house, but, if I want to have ten kids, all I have to do is spurt them out. And then, every American can pay for them, while I smoke crack, by a BMW, and cruise around with a big stereo and annoy everyone with my choice of bad music in front of the local food lion. Which is all paid for with food stamps, and wica, and welfare.

    When are we going to get it,


    I have the same opinion about our Government, if we cant afford them, we shouldnt be allowed to have them.

    This is just my opinion.

    Alan Addington

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