The number one reason people are in poverty – at least the thousands we serve each year – is birth. The poverty in our midst today is not due to people deciding not to work because they prefer to get assistance or because they are lazy or any other stereotype that comes from not knowing folks.
The fact that birth determines poverty at such a high rate makes it a crisis at the level of slavery 150 years ago, voting rights based on gender (100 years ago) and a lack of civil rights (50 years ago). It is that unfair and that in need of total eradication. Not a program with a 10% reduction goal. Or even a 50% reduction goal.
Who is it okay to leave in poverty? Whom do we say does not deserve to be helped out of it? If it is unfair for anyone to be in poverty, then it is unfair for every person. And the truth of it is we have the resources.
We have the resources to ensure that every low-income neighborhood is safe and secure so that residents can walk around at night and people can visit any time of day or night, and so that healthy and positive commerce can be set up everywhere.
We have the resources to ensure that everyone has quality housing. Certainly there is enough furniture and home goods, paint and painters, and every other type of professional – from construction to counseling. We have the mental health counselors and support personnel to ensure that every person who gets the housing gets the support they may need for next steps or just for permanent stability. And we know there are enough vacant units, so the housing issue is a no-brainer if our priority is clear.
We have the resources to ensure that every child and adult has access to education and advancement opportunities. I see thousands of people – from college students to corporate execs – chomping at the bit to help make this happen.
We have the resources to provide long-term support to people rising out of poverty – for as long as they need it. Heck, when we focus on all these areas and engage, we are all gonna see how fulfilling this all can be.
I went to college for one reason: four people in my life made me do it. Parents, a brother, and a coach. They didn’t ask me if I wanted to go to college. They saw I needed motivation and direction, and they forced me to apply and pursue it; they even picked my school. I remember resenting just a bit that they were as forceful as they were, but I soon saw that this is called support. And every kid I meet when his or her family comes here to get basic need items would love this type of support. You can be this support – to adults, children – to whomever life leads you. As long as you are open to it, by the way, life will lead you to someone – or to some family. A Wider Circle will certainly be happy to make a connection for you if you wish.
So, what if we invest with our time, stuff, skills, and money in people whom have never had others give them a real chance? Never mind second chances, what if we gave them a first chance?