What does poverty mean to me?- By Phil Parkes #IDEP2020

I think for myself growing up in a supposed impoverished part of an impoverished town and coming from a very working class family who lived week to week it just felt like that was life.

My parents never let me go without and yes most of the time I wore non branded clothes or if I was lucky enough to wear branded stuff it was a hand me down but I never felt like I missed out on anything. It was only once I’d grown up that I noticed these things and understood the daily struggle that my parents went through. Going from that to being a young adult in the social system i.e. living in hostels and some years rough sleeping I felt not much changed and I had no opportunity to make things change. I went years not knowing where I was going to sleep and not even knowing if I was going to eat that day. Add to that I had developed an addiction and sometimes it was a choice between food and drink/drugs, that on top of the uncertainty of my sleeping arrangements meant most of the time I’d choose the substance that allowed me to sleep whatever the circumstance.

Fast forward to around five years ago and I started volunteering for Expert Citizens and I slowly started to realise that I had a voice and with hat voice some valid opinions that people wanted to listen to. I can say now that it still affects me on a daily basis and I struggle to see myself as living rather than what I have been for most of my life which is surviving but I’m slowly getting past this. I’m a firm believer that that we can take a positive from every experience and I feel that having the life I have lived and now having the voice I have found has all been for a reason. I can now look back on all my life experiences through a microscope and pick out what went well and what went not so well, but instead of dwelling on the negatives I can identify the small changes that could have been made to rectify these problem areas. I am extremely grateful I have had these opportunities and feel these should be granted to anyone who wants them and not just a select few. I’d like to think anybody reading this who has no experience of poverty would be able to see that all voices deserve to be heard.

My hopes for the future other than the obvious that nobody goes through what I went through would mainly be that they have more of a say in how their area is governed and always have that opportunity for their voice to be heard.