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Making Life Worth Living for the People Living in Poverty

Suppose you’re a student and have access to any form of social media. In that case, you have most likely heard the term ‘grind culture’ and how societal notions of productivity are invading our lives to the point where ‘burnout’ is just as commonplace a term. To clarify, grind culture imposes the belief that to “earn” self-care or downtime, one must put forth copious amounts of hard work.

Although social exclusion has made the topic relatively unknown, people living in poverty face the brunt of grind culture. In fact, as of 2004, only 2 articles have been published on the leisure needs of homeless people in the Therapeutic Recreation Journal (Klitzing, 2004). Society perceives that the homeless do not deserve a break or have more pressing needs than life enrichment (Hodgetts & Stolte, 2016). This assumption suggests that fulfillment and self-esteem are not basic human rights, which is dangerous, as it perpetuates the misconception that homeless people are a “problem”. While leisure activities do not resolve all the hardships of homelessness, they can contribute to a better quality of life by providing respite from its stressors (Mair, 2010). Studies have found that recreational practices of people living in poverty include reading, walking, drinking, and gardening, much like those of individuals living in higher social classes. Providing awareness of these habits of the homeless, like this article intends to do, will hopefully highlight common aspects of humanity we share. It has become an affirmation among many of my peers that “we are not meant to go to work, pay bills, and die” – and neither are people living in poverty. If we can earn breaks for pleasure time, then they certainly can too. If there’s more to our lives than seeking out resources for food and shelter, there is more to their lives too. Perhaps the only difference between us is that we have the privacy of our own homes to conduct our relaxation in.

Society needs to realize that people living in poverty have lives worth living too. Community programs such as food banks and shelters are necessary for people living in poverty, and leisure-based programs should be viewed in the same way, yet many barriers such as lack of transportation, childcare (Mair, 2010), and most significantly funding (De Vries & Feenstra, 2019) prevent this from happening. Other benefits of recreational therapy for the homeless population are empowerment, increased independence, and the creation of important social skill interventions and career opportunities (De Vries & Feenstra, 2019, Klitzing, 2004). When individuals are aware of their interests, they have stronger feelings of control and balance that can help facilitate reintegration into society.

The increasing awareness of grind culture in mainstream media has prompted many people to challenge society’s perceptions of productivity. Emphasis is being placed on self-care, and initiatives targeting 4-day work weeks and increased benefit plans are being mobilized to combat burnout. While the changes that are being implemented are progressive and positive, we cannot forget about the people living with homelessness and eliminate social stigmas surrounding them. Grind culture does not need to exist at any level in our society, and with that more realistic expectations of productivity can prevail, making a more inclusive world for all of us.



Dawn De Vries & Andrew Feenstra (2019) Making the case for recreational therapy services with individuals experiencing homelessness, World Leisure Journal, 61:2, 77-97, DOI: 10.1080/16078055.2018.1550436

Geller, Mimi. “The Shortcomings of Grind Culture.” The Rubicon,

Hodgetts, & Stolte, O. (2016). Homeless people’s leisure practices within and beyond urban socio-scapes. Urban Studies (Edinburgh, Scotland), 53(5), 899–914.

Klitzing, S. W. (2004). Women who are homeless: Leisure and affiliation. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 38(4), 348-365.

Mair. (2010). Seeking Judgment Free Spaces: Poverty, Leisure, and Social Inclusion. Journal of Leisure Research., 42(4), 513–533.

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