When I think about how I portray characters in poverty, the first thing that comes to mind is messy -- not in the sense of an unkept room, but rather the jumble of problems and attempted solutions underfoot. While there are poor people who just give up, in my observation most are embroiled in an unending struggle for survival. They might be doing well or badly at any given moment, but it's largely about trying to cobble together enough resources to keep their nose above water. It's not like the narratives of extreme failure or success despite the odds. It's the murk in the middle, more often than not.
The narratives I present are colored with family stories, personal experience, and observations of people around me. I do research if I'm dealing with a specific group, such as youth aging out of foster care. What I look for then is not just statistics, but personal stories -- the stuff that often gets edited out of "official" articles. This is one of the best I have found on decision tunneling. We need these stories. We need more than just the official narratives.