Choosing a balance between passion and pocketbook

Story written by Lauren Frias.

COLUMBIA – When choosing a career after graduation, many people have to find a balance between their passion and their pocketbook. Some choose in favor of their passion, while others opt for financial stability.

Missouri resident Nickie Dedrick, an employee of the MU Hospital, said she went into a career that she didn’t initially major in during college. With a bachelor’s degree in archaeology, Dedrick said she happened upon her hospital job when she couldn’t find any open positions in her desired profession.

“I tried to look around at the museums, but there weren’t a whole lot of job openings available when I graduated, so I didn’t end up going that route,” Dedrick said.

Dedrick said that she originally had a plan to become an archaeologist and attend excavation digs, but she had to settle for a more stable career. Originally an insurance verifier for the hospital, she transferred to her current position as reimbursement assistant after six years. Because of her dedication to her hospital job, her passion for archaeology developed into a side interest.

“I don’t do too much with archeology,” she said. “Now, its kind of more of a hobby and interest of mine, so I have no future plans for it.”

Dedrick admits that sometimes she considers going back to archaeology, but she wouldn’t want to relocate her family. In the midst of the circumstances, Dedrick said she chose her hospital job for the income, not passion.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans in the workforce said they would take a lower-paying job involving their passion over their current job that offers more financial stability, according to a 2013 study by Philips Work/Life. 

Missouri resident Christy Martin is among those in the 68 percent of Americans who voluntarily took a lower-paying job involving her passion over a career that was in line with her college degree.

Martin, a paraprofessional for a Columbia middle school, said she picked a specific job to be closer to her children, though it was outside her degree work studying business administration.

Martin said she followed her passion of working with children.

“I had always thought about being a teacher, but I didn’t get a degree as a teacher,” Martin said. “This job let me work with the kids like I wanted to, and it also allows me to have time with my own kids.”

Martin said her husband served in the military, during which time she was not working for 10 years. When her youngest daughter began attending school full-time, she took the paraprofessional position as an opportunity to make an income while spending time with her children.

In another study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014, only 36 percent of students with some college education say that they are actually satisfied with their current job.

MU student Leslie Parker, a career specialist in the the MU Career Center, said that she helped a variety of students choose what career to pursue. She recalled one case that raised a red flag after a series of questions as a part of the assessment process.

“She didn’t talk too much about why she would be a fashion designer,” Parker said. “I think it was just something she really liked to do. … She just loved fashion, and that’s what she was passionate about. But it’s not what she chose.”

In spite of this, there are some college students who decide to pursue passion over income. Still in college, students take up jobs outside of their desired career field to help pay off their tuition.

MU student Mary Evanoff will start her junior year in the School of Journalism. However, rather than getting a jump on her journalism career, Evanoff took up a job at Yogoluv, a frozen yogurt shop near MU.

“I like ice cream, but it’s not my passion, if you know what I mean,” Evanoff said. “I’m just doing this to pay rent and school fees.”

Evanoff said she hopes to eventually pick up a career in public relations in Paris. She minored in French studies in addition to journalism.

In light of the complexity surrounding a decision between a dream job or a job for income, Martin offered advice to help steer those considering between the two.

“I am the type of person who, if you’re not doing what you like to do, if you’re not doing what makes you happy and what’s fun for you, then the job even with the money is pretty much worthless,” Martin said. “The job that I’m doing now isn’t even a teaching position; it’s kind of like an assistant-teacher-type job. I don’t make a whole lot, but I love being with those kids.”


Gender gap remains same even as women become higher wage earners

Story written by Jordan Meier.

COLUMBIA — Picture this: two doctors, one man and one woman. They do the same work, they work the same hours, they have the same credentials, and yet the man gets paid more than the woman.

More women are becoming the main source of income for their families in the U.S., and yet they still make less than their male counterparts, statistically speaking.

Women working in Missouri earned on average 22 percent less than men working the same jobs in 2014, according to the American Association of University Women. And according to the Pew Research Center, American women would’ve had to work about 40 days more last year to earn what American men did. The research center got this number by tracking the hourly earnings of both part-time and full-time workers.

“This has always been an issue. Lawsuit after lawsuit, case after case trying to get equal pay (for women),” said Joan Hermsen, an MU sociology professor specializing in women’s and gender studies.

“The debate has to do with what is causing it, not if it exists or not,” Hermsen said.

Malaika Horne, a specialist in women’s workplace issues based at the UM-St. Louis said the wage gap is caused partly by gender bias but other factors also play into it.

Horne, who is the director of UMSL’s Executive Leadership department, said the factors that affect the gap include the problem of the “glass ceiling,” which is the idea that women cannot be promoted beyond a certain level in companies.

Another factor, Horne said, is the idea that women tend to take on more domestic responsibilities outside of work, which keeps them from traveling and working overtime.

“You can’t just look at one factor as the cause for the wage gap,” Horne said.

When all these factors combine, she said it could potentially create some challenges when trying to keep a family financially stable.

According to Horne, by the end of an average woman’s life, male counterparts will have made $1 million more than the woman.

“Let’s say you started at a job making $1,000 a week, but your male counterparts made $1,250 a week. That’s a $250 difference, that may not seem like much, but that adds up over time,” said Vivian Eveloff, an academic director for UMSL’s Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life.

Eveloff has also experienced the gap first hand.

“I found out that I was not being paid like the men who were at the same seniority as me,” she said.

Eveloff felt that she deserved equal pay, so she talked with the human resources department at her company to see what could be done.

“I wasn’t just going to press charges,” Eveloff said.

After discussions with human resources, Eveloff’s pay was raised so that it equaled that of her male counterparts. Eveloff said it seemed like the company was moving toward equal pay for women in the company, and she thought it would stay that way.

That was until after she left the company. Eveloff said she received a call a few years after she left from women currently working at the company, asking her to join their lawsuit seeking damages for unequal pay.

Court cases and lawsuits having to do with this same situation have been filed across the country and some have gotten all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, but so far no laws have been passed to equalize pay.

Hermsen said that this problem will not likely be solved anytime soon for the women who fight for equal pay.

Some women will get the justice they want, but many will not and will continue to be paid a lower salary.

“I was lucky enough to have it fixed, most women don’t get that,” Eveloff said.

Both federal and state lawmakers have tried in the past to pass legislation to eliminate the pay gap. During the latest legislative session, Missouri Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, sponsored a bill to create guidelines for gender pay equality. But the bill never made it out of the House. According to the bill’s final summary, its opponents feared that it might encourage people to file lawsuits against companies.

Missouri compares minimum wages to living wages

Story written by Abby Wade.

COLUMBIA  — It’s a question lawmakers and citizens have been grappling with in the wake of a bill recently vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon; is minimum wage a living wage?

In 1998, a law banned counties in Missouri from raising minimum wages in densely populated areas. On July 10, Nixon vetoed a bill that would have restricted all local governments from raising minimum wages.

This has left city officials to consider new wage minimums. Petitions recently approved by city governments have begun to circulate with the intention of raising the wage to $15 an hour in St. Louis and Kansas City by 2020.

Missouri’s current minimum wage, $7.65, rose from $7.50 on Jan. 1. But this number falls short of $9.88 per hour — $20,549 a year — in Boone County that constitutes a living wage, or the minimum amount needed to cover basic needs such as food, medical care, housing and transportation, according to

Aaron Hedlund, an MU economics professor, argued that rising minimum wage only restricts the job market.

“In practice, I think small minimum wage increases don’t do much good or harm,” he said in an email. “But a drastic increase in the minimum wage would effectively shut the least skilled and least experienced out of the labor market, denying them crucial access to that first step on the job ladder.”

Hedlund called the minimum wage  “a ban on low-paying jobs,” not a decreed pay increase.

“In the short run, (employers) will increase pay to comply,” he said. “But they will also reduce hours, hires, and will look to consolidate people into fewer positions with more responsibilities.”

“To live independently on nothing but the minimum wage would undoubtedly be quite tough — especially in places with higher cost of living — but the minimum wage is no magic wand that can erase that tough reality.”

Hedlund concedes, however, that minimum wage is not a living wage; the debate exists in whether it should be.

“The economy is sort of like a game of musical chairs,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director of Empower Missouri, an activist organization advocating to improve social conditions. “In musical chairs, there aren’t enough chairs for everyone. When the music stops, someone will lose. In the economy, not everyone will get a living wage job, unfortunately. What’s cruel is how judgmental our society is toward workers who do not manage to secure a living wage job.”

Angela Hirsch, community services director of the Central Missouri Community Action Center, agreed.

“Most people that are working minimum wage jobs are not working full-time,” Hirsch said. “Full-time is considered 40 hours a week. Most people are working between 20 and 30 hours a week in those minimum wage jobs. You have to take it all into account; it doesn’t even come close.”

Indeed, to sustain a living wage of $41,063 with Boone County’s current minimum wage of $7.65 per hour, an adult with one dependent would have to work an average of 15 hours seven days a week with no assistance or government aid to make ends meet.

Hirsch says the state minimum wage should be raised because she believes it “has not kept up with the national inflation rate and should be increased to address that gap.”

Oxford agrees that minimum wage is not a sustainable income, but she takes it a step further. She believes raising the minimum wage is a step toward solving the problem of poverty.

“The strain of working more than 40 hours a week has terrible health consequences around blood pressure, stress, etc.,” she said. “The whole community suffers when parents do not have adequate time with their children … there are consequences to society.”

“When the minimum wage is increased, those wages are used to purchase good and services, increasing local economic activity,” reads a joint report by Empower Missouri and Vision for Children at Risk.

Gerry Lopez, 23, of Columbia, works on commission as a sales associate at Joe Machens Automotive Group, and said that, on occasion, his take-home pay is equivalent to the minimum wage. But, he says raising the wage in Missouri would raise the local cost of living and cause him to rethink his decision to live in Columbia long-term.

“One of the reasons I live in this town is because the cost of living is so low,” he said. “People think these things occur in a vacuum sometimes. They think, ‘Oh, give these people twice as much an hour and they’ll have twice as much money.’ It doesn’t necessarily work that way. What’s more important than just the raw number of dollars they have is the amount of buying power they have.”

And no matter which way the debate ends, Hedlund concluded that “minimum wage hikes (would) create a perverse mix of winners and losers.” 

Income gap has ramifications beyond the bank account

Story written by Heeu Millie Kim.

Graphic by Millie Kim.

Graphic by Millie Kim.

COLUMBIA — The income gap among U.S. residents can be represented by a group of 100 people: From 1979 to 2012, the five people with the largest incomes got a raise of 75 percent. But the five with the smallest incomes lost 12 percent of their income.

This analysis from U.S. Census data and the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington D.C. think tank, shows an imbalance of income between people of different economic levels.

In the U.S., the top 1 percent averages an income 30 times greater than the bottom 99 percent averages. In Missouri, that same top 1 percent of income-earners averages 24 times more, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization that conducts research on working America.

This gap can prompt middle and lower-income residents to reach out to services offered by government-funded or nonprofit organizations.

MU junior Tyler Hessler is the director of Tiger Pantry, an organization that provides food assistance and educational resources to the MU community. Hessler, 20, and a biology major, said he has observed unequal distribution of income and its affects in Columbia.

“Just looking around campus, a lot of resources go to the upper-class portion of people,” Hessler said. “Not everyone has to earn the same wage but having a better curve would mean more people in the middle and less people on the outside. Right now we have a lot of lower-class people and a few upper-class people, and that curve is just not big enough in the middle. If we can lower the wages of some of the upper class who are being paid ridiculous amounts, we can average the curve out for everyone else.”

MU Economics professor Saku Aura also believes that there barely is a tangible middle class.

“People have kind of killed their view of middle class,” said Aura, in an interview with Cover Your Gap, a website guide created by MU students for journalists to better cover economic inequality.

Aura believes that there is a problem with income inequality because some people have more access to economic resources than others.

“That’s a traditional (reason) why we care,” he said. “You care about people in poverty.”

Another fundamental reason why society cares, Aura said, is the political idea that higher-income individuals have significantly more influence in society and are inclined to make decisions that benefit people of high income.

“We have had quite a dramatic change in income distribution over the last 30 years, and you might argue that has led to guilty political processes along the way,” he said.

Lower-income workers earn less over time, according to a report by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan agency that conducts objective analysis for the U.S. Congress.

“In 1979, the bottom 80 percent of the population … received nearly 60 percent of total labor income, about 33 percent of income from capital and business, and about 8 percent from capital gains,” the CBO’s report said. “By 2007, the share of labor income going to the bottom 80 percent had dropped to less than 50 percent, their percentage of business income and income from capital had decreased to 20 percent, and their share of capital gains was about 5 percent.”

This polarizing trend has continued over time, and the income gap will most likely widen.

Bruce D. Bartholow, a MU psychology professor, said that income inequality could hurt society socially as well.

“There are a lot of social problems that stem from having huge income inequality — not only in terms of having a large group of low-income people, but also psychologically,” he said. “It perpetuates a prejudice and it perpetuates the idea that people are responsible for their own unjust outcome.”

Achieving equal wages is not a plausible solution to the problem of income inequality because people who have jobs that require education or a higher set of skills tend to earn more. However, every person’s ideal of income inequality can differ, depending on his or her socioeconomic status.

“There is absolutely a problem with too many low-income families,” said Connie Furlong, owner of Tiger Town Treasures, a Columbia thrift store. “There are soup kitchens, food pantries, and churches, but there is always a need. I think the government, in some way, should regulate where money goes to narrow the gap at least a little bit.”

Bartholow also thinks government intervention is necessary.

“The current level of income inequality is outrageous and unacceptable. The government and corporations should strive to reduce that income gap,” said Bartholow.

Aura suggests going after a more aggressive, progressive tax system, capital income, and corporate taxes, but he said, “Like it or not, there’s always going to be poverty in society.”


Refugee finds stability in Columbia

Story written by Aaron Carter.


COLUMBIA — One of the priorities in resettlement of refugees and immigrants is fostering self-reliance as quickly as possible.

“When you’re helpless you can’t do anything, except to not give up,” said Osmon Osmon, 46, a refugee from Eritrea, a small country in Africa near Sudan and Ethiopia. “I don’t believe in giving up, even if it is a struggle.”

Although Osmon arrived in Columbia in February 2014, the process was not swift.

When Osmon’s first attempt to gain refugee status was denied in 2007, he appealed. All Osmon could do was simply wait for the result from the United Nations embassy in Delhi, India. Finally a year later, the status was approved.

“Every Tuesday an (excessive) line of people would form outside of the United Nations embassy. They would take 60 people in as refugees, coming from over 15 different countries,” Osmon said.

Osmon and others had to revert to new methods — sometimes extreme methods — to be able to have a chance at gaining refugee status.

“It was very hard. We slept on the street, outside of the embassy, to be near the front of the line when Tuesday came around,” Osmon said.

Osmon spent many years in his native country of Eritrea, which had gone through a political split from Ethiopia. Eventually, he found a temporary home in India. There Osmon worked as a project manager and consultant for alcoholics and drug addicts for 17 years.

Although he has an education and professional skillset, finding a job in the same area can elude refugees and immigrants when they first arrive in the U.S.

Osmon works currently as a Walmart greeter, but has worked at factories as well as other places. After injuring his left hand as a child, he was told the factory job was not for him.

“I was open to any job available,” Osmon said.

Osmon does not earn enough money to own a car so he uses COMO Connect, Columbia’s public transit system, to get to work everyday except Sundays, when the transit system doesn’t operate.

“I pay a man $80 to pick me up and take me home on Sundays. I think that is an issue with the public bus system that needs to be changed,” Osmon said.

Many of the resources enabling Osmon to work toward self-sufficiency began with the organization that sponsored him.

The Refugee and Immigration Services Center — a service of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri created in 1975 as a result of the Vietnamese Airlift — plays a big role in fostering stability within the refugee and immigrant population.

Katie Freehling, job developer, analyst and community outreach/volunteer coordinator for the organization, wants to make sure there is no misconception about refugees and immigrants.

“A refugee and an immigrant are two different things,” Freehling said. “Refugees are individuals who are forced to flee their country because of persecution; while an immigrant is someone who comes to the United States purposefully with the intention of having a more prominent role in society.”

The center wants to assure refugees a better life. That might mean putting them in jobs they might they might be overqualified for or that they might not enjoy.

“Beginning work early is really important to their success,” Freehling said. “We want them to know that their first job will not be their last job here.”

While dealing with the United Nations, Osmon was living on sporadic paychecks for his project manager job. That’s a big contrast from his life now where he receives paychecks every two weeks for his Walmart job, assuming perfect attendance, of course.

‘I prefer to be self-reliant than to be dependent on (the refugee center),” he said. “People have to find a way to fight and create for themselves.”.

During a panel discussion for the Missouri Urban Journalism Workshop, Freehling said that the center gives refugees certain opportunities that they might not have had in their home countries.

Each year, 150 refugees and immigrants are given this chance annually through The Refugee and Immigration Center in Columbia.

When people of other nationalities emigrate to the United States, they “have an opportunity to start their lives (over) again,” Freehling said.

Through Osmon’s personal experience with refugee organizations and the United Nations’ procedure, he said he recognizes the need for refining the financial and support structures so that there are better resources and opportunities for refugees.

“Putting all eggs in one basket is risky. You need to reach out to refugees (that’s how they’ll be successful),” Osmon said.

County has options for poor deceased

Brian Gardner is a local mortician, who owns and operates Columbia Cremation Care Center. LOREN ELLIOT/Missourian

Brian Gardner is a local mortician, who owns and operates Columbia Cremation Care Center. LOREN ELLIOT/Missourian

Story by Erin Sastre.

COLUMBIA — For many people, funerals are an opportunity to celebrate the life of a loved one. But with the cost of a traditional funeral averaging between $7,000 to $10,000, some mourners may be too busy worrying about how they will pay the bill.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 percent of Boone County citizens live below poverty level. For the destitute, death brings no relief.

County officials have been setting aside money to help pay the cost of burying or cremating indigent residents since at least 1987, according to county records.

A bill in 2007 revised the policy — cremation now is the only option — and increased the budget allowance, setting the rate at $250 for adults and children to account for increased expenses. Since 2009, a total of $5,000 is budgeted for the service countywide.

The process involves both private and public agencies. When someone who may be impoverished passes away, his or her body is sent first to the medical examiner’s office or morgue. There, any known next of kin are contacted to claim the body.

“Some are here for as long as they can so family can come claim them,” said Stacey Huck of the Boone County medical examiner’s office.

If no one claims the body or no family members are found, the county works with funeral homes in the Boone County area to provide services.

“After 30 days, bodies are considered county property, and we provide a death certificate and cremation,” said Clay Vogl, manager and funeral director at Parker Funeral Service in Columbia.

The next — and often final — stop is the medical examiner’s office.

“The remains are sent back to our office if they aren’t claimed,” Huck said.

Brian Gardner is a local mortician, who owns and operates Columbia Cremation Care Center. LOREN ELLIOT/Missourian

Brian Gardner is a local mortician, who owns and operates Columbia Cremation Care Center. LOREN ELLIOT/Missourian

In rare circumstances, family members who were not aware an indigent resident’s death are able to petition the medical examiner for possession of the remains, she said. But some are never claimed.

“We have several cremated remains (in storage),” she said. “Thirty, if not more.”

When remains go unclaimed, they haven’t necessarily been forgotten, Huck said.

“It’s more likely that family is unwilling or unable financially to claim remains,” she said. “Typically, if a family doesn’t pay, if someone said, ‘We can’t take care of the cost’… the remains will stay in this office indefinitely.”

A county cremation isn’t the only option for financially unstable families, however. Other programs and businesses provide economic options for laying loved ones to rest.

MU’s Gift of Body program offers free cremation of bodies that are donated for study by students in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences. The program allows residents — including those who might lack the resources to pay for a traditional funeral — to provide for their own cremation or that of a loved one while contributing to the advancement of medical science.

Military veterans have another option. Many service members qualify for a free gravesite and a government-provided headstone at one of 131 national cemeteries or a state veterans’ cemetery in the state where the veteran lived at the time of death.

Private funeral homes also may offer discounted services to those in need or help tailor a funeral to match a limited budget.

“The service price depends on the needs and means of the families,” said Vogl. “We try to work with them as best as we can.”

Judicial process poses financial threat to low-income individuals

Story by Sasha Keenan.

Illustration by Luc Pham.

Illustration by Luc Pham.

COLUMBIA — Teddy Morris stands on the corner of Cherry and Ninth streets in Columbia holding a tattered sign that reads “homeless, hungry, anything helps, thank you, god bless.”

During the day, Morris has collected a small pile of small change from passersby. He said he was fined $150 earlier this year for first-degree trespassing while standing on a busy street asking for money. Then he received a second fine for failure to appear in court.

“How is that fair?” Morris said, shaking his head in frustration. He said he often feels unwanted.

“Poor people don’t have the resources to defend themselves,” said Angela Hirsch, community services director for the Central Missouri Community Action Center.

Low-income individuals are often crushed by the judicial process. Hirsch noted that an accumulation of fines for non-violent crimes could often inhibit a person’s ability to emerge from poverty.

Poorer citizens are unlikely to have the financial means to pay the fines imposed even for relatively minor misdemeanors, such as petty theft and trespassing. They are typically unable to hire an attorney, and free legal services are critically overburdened.

One in every four people in Columbia lives below the poverty line, which sits at $11,770 of annual income per family member, according to U.S. Census data.

The fine for petty theft, which is a Class A misdemeanor, can be $1,000. The penalty is the same for fraudulent use of a credit card or passing a bad check.

Lacking the resources to cover basic needs can push low-income individuals and families into tough situations when it comes to settling fines for non-violent crimes, MU law professor Frank Bowman said.

“It’s really a matter of ‘I pay my fine, or I pay for food and my children’s child support,’” Bowman said.

But low-income individuals are still responsible for their actions.

“Being poor doesn’t mean you don’t have to comply with the law,” he said.

If they do get into trouble, an attorney comes at a price. In some metropolitan areas, attorneys in some metropolitan areas.

These defendants often rely on the legal services of a public defender, who “fulfills the obligation of Sixth Amendment rights” by providing an attorney to those who are accused of crimes and can’t afford legal representation, said Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri State Public Defender System.

In an August 2014 article by the Associated Press, Barrett described the situation as “simply too many cases for even skilled practitioners to handle.”

He said that those who lack the resources to alleviate the consequences of a misdemeanor have potential to be trapped the criminal justice system.

“If a person is having a hard time paying their bills, I don’t understand the value of imposing excessive fees and fines,” Barrett said, “It keeps a person from getting back on their feet.”

According to an Eastern Michigan University study, the kinds of non-violent crimes committed in the United States are distinctly divided by income.

Those who commit white-collar crimes are generally socially elite, high-level executives. Those who commit non-violent street crimes are generally in low-income situations.

“White-collar crimes are destructive to our society; however, it would appear that the majority of concerns about criminal activity are centered on street criminals because their damaging effect is more direct and visible,” the study’s authors reported.

Since people of means often commit white-collar crime, which includes fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and insider trading, they have access to expensive legal representation. Non-violent street criminals often do not.

“The criminal justice system will disadvantage the poor,” Bowman said.

Widening income gap causes social repercussions

Story by Heeu Millie Kim.

COLUMBIA — Putting labels on people different from oneself may seem like a natural thing to do. However, to those being labeled, social stigma can be perceived as developmental and avoidable.

In psychology, it’s human nature.

Bruce. D Bartholow, an MU psychology professor, says that as the income gap widens each year, low-income families are not only facing economic hardships but also social repercussions. Society uses visual markers such as clothing, material possessions and using government aid or charitable services to determine the social class of an individual. Every member of society, however, responds differently to people of different income levels.

“There is an initial automatic, spontaneous response,” said Bartholow, who specializes in social psychology. “And then if it is important to us as individuals to not display discrimination or prejudice, then we can overcome those initial responses – but it takes some stopping and thinking. You might feel compassion and positive emotions, but at the same time, those would be mixed with perhaps pity, maybe some disdain.”

Carrying an EBT card, for instance, shows an observer that the cardholder qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Angela Hirsch, community service director for Central Missouri Community Action, works to provide basic necessities and long-term benefits for low-income families. She related an experience of being stigmatized during a recent news conference with the Missouri Urban Journalism Workshop at MU.

“When I was 22 and serving in the Domestic Peace Corps, Volunteers In Service To America, I applied and qualified for food stamps. Once, I went to the grocery store and opened up my little checkbook with stamps and the cashier looked at me and said, ‘Oh, my God. Are you serious?’ That was the most humiliating moment of my life,” Hirsch recalled.

Positive responses may lead to the creation of food pantries, thrift stores and government-funded organizations, while negative responses may lead to stigmatization and further neglect. In other words, individuals who turn to aid for basic necessities are ‘marked’ by society as different.

“There are people that look down on individuals who come to trade items for things like socks,” said Connie Furlong, owner of Tiger Town Treasures Thrift Store. “People need things, not everyone is rich. You have to be understanding.”

Graphic by Millie Kim

Graphic by Millie Kim

Psychology and culture further explain a chain reaction that results from a social response to an individual. Culture in the United States, in general, assumes that people are responsible for their own hardships, Bartholow said. If individuals needing help understood how society perceived them, it might be difficult for them to seek out help. The social stigma associated with low-income individuals doesn’t easily disappear.

“It didn’t matter that I had a master’s degree or work history, they just saw my Medicaid card,” said Teresa Taylor-Williams, a former MUJW participant who was downsized from her media job after 16 years. She is now a grant officer at Community Foundation for Muskegon County.

According to Social Exclusion Knowledge Network, a group established under the World Health Organization Commission, social exclusion or the feeling of being disconnected from society because of differing political, economic and social factors is prevalent in society. Social exclusion may be another reaction to social responses and become an expanding problem with increasing numbers of families that require assistance.

Robert Wells, manager of The Salvation Army Thrift Store in Columbia, said he has seen social exclusion first-hand.

“When I drive up to a mall sometimes, I see people ignore homeless people. They just become a part of the scenery,” he said.

Society’s responses vary, but people can learn more to react positively.

“The motivation to bond with other people and to seek affiliation with others is the most fundamental motivation of human life,” Bartholow said. “Emotional pain of social rejection is experienced in the brain exactly the same way as physical pain. It literally hurts.”

Programs offer assistance for low-income pet owners

Story by Lindsay Alfermann.

COLUMBIA — Low wages negatively affect more than just workers — pets can experience hardship, too.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that 7.6 million animals enter shelters across the U.S. every year, often because owners are unable to provide for them.

For individuals who struggle to pay for food and shelter, affording the bare necessities for their animals can be a challenge.

“Most people know the costs of annual shots, routine visits to the vet, and supplies like dishes, food and collars, but they need Central Missouri Humane Society assistance with those things too,” Assistant Director Michelle Casey said.

“We have a food bank program that we offer on Mondays and Saturdays where anyone who qualifies can come in if something comes up in life to where they need help feeding their animal,” she said.

Anyone looking to save money on pet supplies can access coupons on local pet store websites as well.

Director Michelle Casey, holds Cassius at the Central Missouri Humane Society Tuesday, July 14, 2015. Cassius had surgery last week for

Director Michelle Casey, holds Cassius on Tuesday at the Central Missouri Humane Society. Cassius had surgery last week for “Cherry Eye”, an entropion condition affecting his eye tissue. The humane society provides affordable programs for low-income pet owners. LINDSAY ALFERMANN/Missourian

Casey said the most expensive factor of pet ownership is the unpredictable future.

“(Owners) don’t think about paying for dental services like teeth extractions, hip surgeries or services to aid in their pet’s behavioral issues,” she said.

For these reasons, the Central Missouri Humane Society implements its low-income services program.

“To qualify for our low-income services, clients have to present proof from a government program like food stamps, Medicaid or Social Security,” Casey said. “We try to offer as many resources as we can to keep them with their animals. That’s the point; we want people to stay with their animals.”

The program provides reduced price services such as spaying and neutering, nail clipping, microchipping and vaccinations. “We have an amazing behaviorist that will even go out to houses for no charge and work with animals so that they can learn to cope with their conditions,” Casey said.

Second Chance, another local shelter, focuses on finding temporary and permanent homes for shelter animals.

In addition, the group raises money for the Hodges TLC Fund, “a fund specifically for animals who deserve a second chance, but are in need of additional support due to injury or acute illness” according to their website.

Similarly, Noah’s Ark Animal Hospital, located on North Fairview Road in Columbia, makes efforts to accommodate for its clients’ needs as well.

“We raise funds for those clients who have difficulty affording our services, so that it’s unlikely to be rejected or denied because of their financial situations, especially in cases of emergency,” said Greg Chapman, a veterinarian at Noah’s Ark.

A collection of pet food stored at the Central Missouri Humane Society Tuesday, July 14, 2015. The food is available to low-income pet owners.

A collection of pet food is stored Tuesday at the Central Missouri Humane Society. The food is available to low-income pet owners. LINDSAY ALFERMANN/Missourian

Events often are held around the community that provide discount services, such as $5 nail clipping events that occur on most Saturdays at Lizzi and Rocco’s Natural Pet Market.

Casey said she hopes that the low-cost services enable pet owners to better care for their animals.

“If for any reason an owner could not find a way to support their pet and must give the animal up, appropriate steps should be taken to ensure the pet’s well-being,” she said.

Before making any decisions, pet owners are urged to contact a local shelter and speak to a professional.

“Some issues can be resolved through counseling, but if not, arrangements can be made to move the animal into a temporary home,” Casey said. “The worst possible scenario is when animals are left in isolation to fend for themselves and often do not survive.”

Five mixed Doberman puppies were abandoned in the heat at a local park, according to the Columbia Missourian. The puppies were brought into the Central Missouri Humane Society. Although one puppy did not survive, four are now under care and will be put up for adoption when they fully recover. The Humane Society’s website also posted information about the puppies.

“We’ve made huge leaps and strides in the nature of being pet owners,” Casey said. “But we still have a lot of work to do, which is why community outreach and humane education are two of my big goals.”