Looking Beyond The Myths: What Is The Best Way To Help The Poor?
Can You Spare a Dime? Can You Spare Some Time?
Recently, a question was posed that many individuals weighed in on. The question was "Is giving money the only way to help poor people?" The responses all came from people who, from what I can tell, mean well. Unfortunately, many of the answers have been formed in the minds of people who do not understand the complexities involved in creating an individuals impoverished situation in the first place. The fact is, there is not just a single cause. Every one of us have our own personal struggles and successes that have led us to our current point in life. "Poor people" are the same way. I used quotation marks for a reason. The first thing we need to change is how we view the "have nots". We have the tendency to separate "them" from "us" as though they are a separate species. We try to lump those less fortunate into one big group of "other". This often is not intentional, however, this makes it more difficult to see each struggling individual as a unique human being with unique situations. Once we realize each person has their own personal story of struggle, we begin to see that there is no single cut and dry solution to the problem of poverty. So, how do we even begin to learn these stories? How do we find out about each individual's needs? We do this by giving our time. You don't have to be a counselor, social worker, or a member of a clergy to spend some time getting to know a person in need. Living in survival mode, many who experience poverty must do things that are demoralizing and dehumanizing; things such as begging for enough change just to eat. Something as simple as reaching out and being a friend can mean a world of difference to them.
Myths About The Poor
There are many myths about why people living in poverty remain in poverty. Many of these myths are perpetuated in order to offer an excuse as to why programs for those in need should be cut or discontinued.
1. Myth: Those who use welfare programs lack the ambition to better themselves. Fact: Over half of those who receive welfare benefits no longer receive them after 1 year. Within 4 years, 85% no longer receive benefits. Many people who receive these benefits need them temporarily to help support themselves and their families while either working on a certification or degree or looking for a better job.
2. Myth: People who are poor just need to work harder. Fact: Two-thirds of people who live in poverty work more than one job. The working poor actually spend more hours working per week than their wealthier counterparts according to The Economic Policy Institute.
3. Myth: If I give money to the poor, they will just spend it on drugs or alcohol. Fact: Alcohol and drug abuse affects all classes, but studies have shown that it is more prevalent among middle class high school students than any other group. The assumption that because a person is poor or homeless, they are most likely addicts is false.
4. Myth: A great deal of our tax dollars go to support welfare programs. Fact: Only 1% of the Federal Budget goes toward welfare programs. The majority of our tax dollars go toward our country's National Defense.
The fact is, the majority of people living in poverty do not want to live off of government assistance forever. They have dreams of being able to independently support their families just like everyone else. Many lack community support or family to help them achieve their goals. Many feel like higher education is beyond their means so they work 2 or 3 minimum wage jobs just to keep a roof over their heads. Many are living one paycheck away from ending up on the street. Those who are living on the streets for one reason or another have a much harder time finding employment. Employers want to hire people with stable addresses, phone numbers, and reliable transportation. People who are living on the street not only lack these fundamental resources, but they often lack time. Yes. Time! Everything is scheduled around survival. You must be in line at the soup kitchen an hour before the soup kitchen opens if you want to eat. So it takes a few hours to get lunch and again in the evening for dinner. You must wait in line to receive pretty much any type of charity. Often, showers are not available everyday to those who need them. What do you do if you manage to score a job interview? You will need to shower. You will need nice clean clothes. If you are able to live in a shelter, you must be in the shelter before dark to get a bed. Because of shelter rules, the wait for a shower, and the hours in line for food, you now have a very limited amount of time left to make yourself available for work. Survival is a full time job.
Rev. Hugh Hollowell - Relationships Can Change The World
Relationships Can Change The World
Rev. Hugh Hollowell of Love Wins, a faith based non-profit organization in Raleigh, NC, explains during a Ted Talk about how having a network of close relationships can mean the difference between getting through financial hardships or ending up on the street. His goal as he works with his friends living on the street is to build the much needed community many of them need in order to survive or to finally become housed and employed. Everyone needs community.
By: Traci Ruffner