What does Poverty look like in Mason?


Ashlyn Wilkinson, Writer

What does homelessness look like in Mason? Unfortunately, when the general population thinks of homelessness, they picture a grungy looking man standing on a street corner in a big city holding a sign to attract the sympathy of financially stable people’s hearts. They don’t picture it here in Mason. 

“I see it in bigger cities,” said National Honor Society leader Katelyn Benson, “it’s not as obvious around Mason. I don’t see a lot of people out on the streets and such, but I do know that there are a handful of kids at Mason in our school who don’t have food at home and who are desperate for new clothes or any canned items, food, whatever, there’s a lot of people here and we don’t see it.”

The need is here, in Mason. There are multiple students within our school that do not have a sustainable or safe home in which they feel comfortable. 

Mason Public Schools defines homelessness in minors as “Children and youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” This could be a result of many circumstances, including running away from home and sharing the housing of other persons due to economic hardship. 

According to Mason Public Schools’ Executive Assistant to the Curriculum Director, Jodi Somerville, we are under the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, which is a federal law that provides money and support for homeless programs. The act provides financial assistance to schools to provide for the needs of students considered homeless.

“We do have a lot. A lot more that I guess I was naive to.” said Somerville. “The ones that I have marked in the computer is less than 25 but those are the ones that I know of that actually get the benefits.” 

Poverty in Mason tends to be unrecognizable to the eye because there aren’t beggars standing on a street corner. Mason’s homelessness tends to be people living in cars or at other people’s houses or in insufficient housing. 

“A huge problem with homelessness is when they are not accounted for, the hidden homeless,” said Capital Area Community Services Center Coordinator, Marina Poroshin, “The real numbers are much higher than the ones that are obvious and on the surface.”

Mason residents do not know that homelessness is an issue the town faces. This ignorance makes it so people in need can’t be helped. People need to know that it is an issue here and how to help.

“It’s not talked enough about and people need to be aware of what’s happening around them not only here in Mason, but around the world.”  said Benson.

By being educated in the ways that poverty rears its face in Mason, community members are enabled to help. Because it is such an individualistic issue we need to trust those who are in charge of helping these people face to face but also do our part in helping as a community.

“Everyone should be responsible to help because they are still our peers and if anyone got thrown into that situation unexpected then they would want help.” said Benson. “Everyone should try and contribute and go out and donate food, clothes, anything. Everyone should be helping.”

Mason is a community that comes together to help in times of need and has many ways of doing so. National Honor Society is a way to get involved and serve the community and our school. 

“NHS has opened up a lot of opportunities for me to volunteer in places that I wouldn’t have thought about.” said NHS leader Reagan Bercaw. “It has definitely opened my eyes and it has been a good opportunity to help people.” 

Bercaw is one of the leaders in charge of the MOC closet which is a resource for students with financial hardship to access food, clothing, outerwear, and school supplies. The MOC closet is open to any student in need.

There are volunteer opportunities all around Mason. Senior Lita Weekley spends every Monday afternoon at the Capital Area Community Services in town on Maple St.

“I like volunteering for CACS I’ve been doing it for about two years,” said Weekley. “the people I work with are very nice and the people that come in are very nice. It connects people who have low income with resources they need like heat and paying their bills. They get help and CACS helps navigate through government red tape to help them get the benefits they need… A long time ago they helped out my family when we had a rough time.”

Capital Area Community Services and National Honor Society are only a sampling of the many ways to help the Mason community. Check out the volunteer board in the hallway down by the gymnasium and see what areas of Mason needs and extra set of helping hands.

Low income aid “has to come from the community around them, local businesses, neighbors,everyone. I think that process should be everyone helping each other as one unit. That cant fall on one person or group of people.” said Bercaw.