Philadelphia’s Poverty Problem

This is the problem we never talk about

Most likely, one of those kids playing touch football that evening on Charise’s street is her half-brother. His father doesn’t live with Charise’s mother anymore. One evening a few months ago, a kid on the street was talking trash about Charise’s mom. Her brother went inside, got a steak knife, and went back outside. Charise’s half-sister stopped him from stabbing the other kid. Charise’s brother is eight years old.

Charise worries that her brother’s -punishment  —  grounded for a month that morphed into two weeks  —  was hardly sufficient. And her sister  —  who’s 10  —  is getting interested in fashion. She likes high heels. Charise worries that her mother won’t pay attention to her sister roaming outside, either, and then one day she won’t be outside, but somewhere inside, getting herself in trouble in another tried-and-true way.

At Race, the top of Charise’s block, I turn: A half-moon has risen. There are three trees. The kids yell in their game of football. They are an island, the children.


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