The dignity of poverty

I am a deeply compassionate man who grieves for the poor — indeed, my compassion is legendary and I can clearly remember once donating $2 to some charity in 1979 — but I have to admit, not without any shame, that I am too poor to go broke. Thus, you can imagine my distress when I read about the hardship and struggle being endured by the wretched poor condemned to live in places like Melbourne’s Toorak.

Distress is too mild a word, frankly. I’m not ashamed to say that I wept openly for these people who, through no fault of their own, exist in slums and live in grinding, debilitating and life-sapping poverty.

A report by some outfit called Digital Finance Analytics and reported by the ABC has blown the lid off this national disgrace.

Steel yourself for some appalling facts revealed by this report. It really goes to the heart of housing affordability and the only response should be an urgent Federal-State-Territory Royal Commission. I’m sure that pensioners would be among the first to surrender a sizeable chuck of their generous fortnightly handout to help these people.

The ABC reported and, for once, without any of its often manufactured outrage that, “… households in Melbourne’s Toorak, where the median house price is $3.5 million, are five times more likely to default on mortgage payments than the national average.”

And it’s not only Toorak residents who face this disgrace and possible slide into complete homelessness.

The report mentions other suburbs like Sydney’s seaside suburb of Bondi and on its “leafy north shore”, suburbs including Hornsby and Gordon as areas in crisis. I’m sure that it was only the ABC’s profound respect for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that they didn’t include his Sydney suburb of Point Piper. Things are getting so desperate there that the house next door to the Turnbull’s and right on Sydney Harbour, is let at the bargain basement rent of $35,000 a week. Mind you, that is about $34,500 a week more than we could hopefully rent our modest workers’ cottage for if we lived in a tent.

The folks at Digital Finance Analytics drew their conclusions from data they collected for about 16,000 homes in twenty of our allegedly rich suburbs nation-wide.

Martin North, head honcho of the outfit, explained, “Quite a few households are actually cash strapped, despite the fact that they are affluent and that’s a really quite unusual phenomenon.”

He said that these unfortunate households would be “disproportionately affected by even a small (interest) rate rise.

There is a reason for this precarious, even threatening, scenario.

Again to quote Mr North who is very obviously a very caring and sharing person, “If you’re a more affluent household, you’ll tend to have higher costs. You’ll be going out and eating more, you’ve got bigger cash flow issues with regards to credit cards, say larger credit cards, and larger repayments on the credit cards. You have a more expensive car. So this is about lifestyle. ”

He didn’t have to say it but to me it is obvious. How many have the slightest appreciation of how much it costs to service a Rolls Royce? How many are aware that shops in these suburbs will charge an outrageous $395 for a shirt? And I understand that the costs of good servants nowadays are skyrocketing. I read once that a half-decent steak in restaurants in these suburbs can cost $85 or more with chips — sorry, french fries.

The cost of living, obviously, is crippling for these poor people. But they are proud — they know about the dignity of poverty so they don’t moan — well, not too loudly anyway.

Mr North believes that the extent to which the so-called “wealthier households” manage their finances over the next twelve months “will be the acid test of whether Australia experiences a property crisis.”

He’s certainly put his finger on the crisis which could be just around the next corner. Imagine you bought a modest little place on Sydney Harbour for a modest little $17.5 million in 2015 and were forced by your abject poverty to let it go for only $15 million later this year? Now that is a real hardship so let’s stop pretending to worry about a possible but miserable monthly mortgage rise payment of $200.

But all is not lost. The poor are always close to God and He to them.

Proverbs 22:22–23 tells us, “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will extract life for life.”

So if you are a poor family in one of these mortgage-stressed enclaves and you get some bloody insulting letter from your bank just because you are five or six months behind in your payments, then my advice is to send them this quote.

It’s a measure of my compassion that I offer this advice quite freely. We all have to pitch in, don’t we in a national emergency?

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