Left Behind – Rural Michigan’s Dilemma: Down and Out in Lake County

Robert Traviss’s house, if you can call it that, is an old camper trailer he shares with two Chihuahuas named Spaz and Boots. The trailer is parked in the side yard of the home, now rotting away, where he grew up. A second camper trailer, even older, is in the front yard and is filled with the tools he used before a stroke left him disabled.

The detritus of his life – a lawn mower, an upholstered recliner, a couple of plastic buckets, an old car that hasn’t run in months – are scattered around the yard

From the camper’s door, Traviss, 55, can look across fields, where deer graze. If he steps outside with his walker and surveys the neighborhood, he sees poverty – rural poverty, the kind that is little noticed by much of the nation. He used to be a machinist and a tool and die maker, but now, since the stroke, his only income is from Social Security disability.

“It’s not enough. I can tell you that,” he said. “It’s hard to get by out here. For me it’s rough. There’s a lot of people in a lot worse shape than me.”