11/22/2011 11:00 am ET Updated Jan 22, 2012

What Is Necessary

The Occupy Movement rightly attacks the disparity between the top 1 percent and the other 99 percent. The rich are getting richer. The middle class treads water. And the poor, working or not, are drowning.

When I hear about the government balancing the budget on the backs of the 'middle class,' I get pissed, because the truth is that budgets are being balanced at the expense of the lowest-income individuals...

I've left out some of the more colorful words that I heard from a 57-year-old man after a community meeting last week. He's right -- we don't hear the cries of the poor. They are drowned out by whining corporate millionaires who threaten to leave Illinois in order to dodge paying taxes. Where are the strong, caring leaders who call forth the best in us during tough times?

Maybe we should listen to the people in the bottom 5 percent for a change. Last week, a community organizer and several homeless leaders from CCH asked a group of South Side high school students about the economic crisis. One girl's story really hit home:

"I was once homeless for 12 years," she wrote. "It was always me, my little brother and big brother, along with my strong standing mother. It only makes matters worse when there aren't enough shelters. We've been to every shelter you can name in Chicago. Having to hide the fact that I didn't have my own bed is rough. I cried almost every night. My classmates didn't know I was homeless because my mom had us clean. "You don't have to look homeless just because you are," my mom liked to tell us."

I'm not shy to tell my story because we need help. People are struggling because of benefit problems. I know people who were and still are in bad conditions and are homeless. I feel that it's wrong and something needs to be done. Every program has helped us get where we are now. Since the start, she's (mom) done everything in her power to get us a place to lay our head. I'm standing up for what I believe in because I think we could change things.

This teenager understands what is necessary. She's not confused by greed, by ideology, or by political parties. She understands firsthand that people -- especially the bottom 5 percent of us -- need help.