A lonely road: For the poor in the Deep South’s cities, simply applying for a job exposes the barriers of a particularly pervasive and isolating form of poverty

by Chico Harlan

Marcia Champion, left, and Olivia Durden, who are homeless, wait with their chidren just after 6 a.m. for the No. 55 bus that will take them to downtown Atlanta. They had just left the Calvary Refuge Center, where the checkout time is 6 a.m. Photo:  ©  Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post

She set off on the latest day of job hunting wearing tiny star-shaped earrings that belonged to her 18-month-old daughter and frayed $6 shoes from Walmart that were the more comfortable of her two pairs. In her backpack she had stashed a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch, hand sanitizer for the bus and pocket change for printing résumés at the public library. She carried a spiral notebook with a handwritten list of job openings that she’d titled her “Plan of Action for the Week.”