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Book Review: Looking Up at the Bottom Line: The Struggle For the Living Wage by Richard R. Troxell

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Looking Up At The Bottom Line is a walk through homelessness in the United States over the past 30 years. Based on his experiences when he returned home from Viet Nam, Richard R. Troxell presents a workable solution to homelessness caused by economic reasons . They are also influenced by his relationship with Max Weiner, a pioneer in consumer activism.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept of a Living Wage, the basic idea is that businesses need to pay employees a wage that will cover their basic needs of shelter, food, medical care, etc. No we’re not talking about a Mercedes and steak on the dinner table. We’re talking about a roof over their heads and food on the table. If you’ve worked a minimum wage job, you know that in most cases, you cannot pay rent or a mortgage and your basic necessities even with two wage earners working for minimum wage. Adding in a baby or small children and the problem of paying for daycare so you can work a minimum wage job makes the task even more impossible. This issue results in homelessness, which is a growing problem here in the United States.

Troxell examines homelessness and some of the factors that lead to it. He discusses why it’s growing in leaps and bounds in part by natural disasters, economic issues, the return of women to the workplace and other factors. Looking Up is more than facts and figures. The author shows us the homeless through actual case studies and photographs. He puts a face to the problem, one we shouldn’t ignore. He brings their stories to life and really helps you understand why they are where they are today.

He believes that in order to end homelessness we need national health care, affordable housing, and living wages. He believes that homeless people need protection because many laws are targeting the homeless including the no camping ordinance. Many homeless band together in small communities and camp on open ground in tents for the lack of anywhere else to stay.

Troxell offers a variety of possible solutions to the problem including the offering of a living wage, Project Fresh Start, a free economy, work opportunity credits, and other ideas. Most of all, he urges us all to get involved. A Universal Living Wage adjusts the federal minimum wage and indexes it to the local cost of housing throughout the U.S. Any person who works 40 hours a week is able to afford basic rental housing (including utilities) along with clothing and food. Enactment of the ULW will end economic homelessness for over 1,000,000 people and prevent economic homelessness for 10.1 million wage workers.

Do I agree with his solution? I agree in part. I agree we need a livable wage and affordable necessities. I belong to our local Vermont Chapter of the Livable Wage Campaign. I see the effects of homelessness and poverty in our community while working at our food shelf. I’m not sure I agree we need national health care although I agree we need some system to care for those that fall between the cracks. Most of all, I think people need to be aware of this problem — even those far removed from homelessness in their community. All proceeds of the sale of Looking Up At The Bottom Line go to support efforts to end economic homelessness.

About Ellen Christian

Ellen is a busy mom of two teenagers who left the corporate world in 2008 to focus on a more eco-friendly life. She lives in rural Vermont where she juggles family, two blogs and a career in social media. You can find her at http://www.confessionsofanover-workedmom.com/ and http://the-socialites-closet.blogspot.com/.