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Category: Poverty

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UNITE-ing Through the Holidays

As the holidays approach us, it’s easy to get swept away in the joy of the season. The sweet scent of fresh-baked cookies drifts from open windows, past twinkling lights on decorated homes, and moves to busy downtown streets. Christmas carols can be heard twisting in and out of crowded stores as families prepare for their feasts. Children, bright-eyed, gaze longingly at shelved toys, gadgets, and gizmos, unaware that they are already wrapped and tucked safely under the tree.

 

Amidst all this holiday cheer, many people in our community face hardships that become more difficult to manage during the holidays and cold winter months. Some of our neighbors may be struggling to pay utilities or housing costs. Others may be hungry and not know when they will have their next meal. Children in foster care who have been separated from their families and loved ones may feel frightened and lonely.

 

The United Way network of funded partners unites to help tackle these issues through the holidays.

 

Jackson Senior Center helps provide weekday meals and engaging activities for seniors who otherwise might not have the opportunity to enjoy a hot and healthy meal or socialize with others outside of their homes. Scott City Ministerial Alliance and Little Whitewater Food Pantry provide canned and dry food for people who may not be able to purchase many items from a traditional store. Hope for One More teams up with community members to organize family meals and Christmas gifts, brightening the holidays for local children in foster care. The Salvation Army provides hot showers and utility assistance, as well as hosts Meals with Friends at the end of each month, where the whole community is welcome to sit and enjoy a filling meal and fellowship. In December, The Salvation Army also provides an additional packaged holiday meal for those unable to afford a big holiday feast. Community Partnership of Southeast Missouri’s NeighborHub in Cape and New Life Mission Inn’s Drop-in Center in Perryville invite our homeless neighbors to take a hot shower, wash laundry, and receive other services.

 

Though United Way partners are hard at work, we could not lift our neighbors without the support of our community. Here is how you can help others through United Way this holiday season.
  • Give. Thanks to our corporate investors, 98% of every individual donation goes directly to the programs we invest in. Make a one-time or recurring gift to help others this holiday season. Donate Now.
  • Advocate. Be a positive voice for United Way. Help us by completing our Community Survey and sharing it with others in our area. Follow United Way of Southeast Missouri on Facebook and Instagram to see United Way in action this season.
  • Volunteer. There’s no better time than the holidays to volunteer your time to someone else. Visit our Volunteer page to find current one-time and recurring volunteer opportunities. Sign-up for our quarterly Volunteer Newsletter to receive updates
Poverty

Think you know poverty?

Think you know poverty? Take this quiz

 

1. Inequality of incomes has improved in the last 25 years. (True/False)

2. People graduate from college to become doctors, lawyers, politicians, judges, social workers, educators and fill many other professions without ever having studied the history of poverty –its structural causes, or the models we have used to address poverty in America. (True/False)

3. People earning minimum wage are able to afford a modest, two bedroom apartment in America. (True/False)

4. The Federal Poverty Guideline is an accurate indicator of how many people live in poverty in America. (True/False)

5. The majority of American’s believe poverty is caused by people’s behavior and bad choices. (True/False)

6. Prison will solve poverty related problems. (True/False)

7. People in poverty are to blame for drugs, alcohol, sex abuse, child abuse, domestic violence and other social ills. (True/False)

8. Parents who do not go to school conferences must not care about their children. (True/False)

9. Head Start, the preschool program designed for children in poverty, is available to all four-year old who live in poverty. (True/False)

10. People get rich by begging on the streets, getting welfare and having babies to get more welfare. (True/False)

11. People in poverty are irresponsible because they buy cable television, cigarettes, and Nike shoes. (True/False)

12. If you work hard, you will move up the economic ladder in the American labor market. (True/False)

Check out the answers here

Source: Communications Across Barriers

 

Poverty

Martin Luther King, Jr., on poverty

“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

-A lesser known quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., but one of my favorites. He recognized and understood that poverty was a condition of the society not a condition of the person. To tell a person they ought to be able to succeed, without looking at the external factors that are keeping them down, is misleading, a “cruel jest” in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. The reality is that moving out of poverty, especially generational poverty, is difficult. A person is more likely to fall in to poverty than move out of it, despite their attempt to work themselves out of it.


The point that Martin Luther King, Jr. makes in this quote is that we must recognize the fallacy in believing a person can make it on their own, especially a person who has so little to work with in the first place. No one succeeds alone. I would argue that in every “rags to riches” or “self-made business man” story that you hear, there was someone in their life that helped make it happen, whether it was a mentor or someone who inspired them or motivated them, they did not just “make it” in isolation.


This enduring belief-that people can just pull themselves up out of poverty- is the very thing that perpetuates judgment and continues the myth that people in poverty are to blame for being in poverty. Martin Luther King, Jr. refers to it as a “jest,” a joke, referring to the obvious- that one thing cannot be done without the other.


The United Way of Southeast Missouri shares in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s recognition that people in poverty are not equipped to move themselves out of poverty on their own. Within our Income Focus Area, not only do we support efforts to increase financial stability in individuals and families, but we also work diligently to break down the myths and stereotypes of people living in poverty so that we can begin to focus instead on breaking down those barriers that are keeping people down. One way that we do this is through Poverty 101 in which we discuss the history of poverty, causes, and current national and local facts. Attendees also explore their own attitudes, beliefs, and values about poverty and the people who live in it. Interested in attending Poverty 101?, email Melissa Stickel at melissa.stickel@unitedwayofsemo.org

I’ll end with another great Martin Luther King, Jr. quote for you to ponder on:

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Poverty

Just a Little Bit More

Over the weekend my family and I saw Cape Bethel Assembly of God’s Christmas production of “Humbug to Halleluiah.” Although it was not my first time seeing it, this was the first time that my children were not part of it so I actually got to sit and just enjoy it. I had heard all of the songs before and had some of them even memorized, but this weekend as I sat and listened to one particular song I was particularly struck by how true the lyrics really were, despite the intended humor. 

The particular scene is when Scrooge is asking for payment due on money borrowed to the poor townspeople, which are called moochers, and the townspeople are appealing to Scrooge to hold off on their payments due since it is the holidays. They break out in a song titled, “Just a little bit more.” As the song goes, the townspeople are begging for “just a little bit more” time and some even for “just a little bit more” money. Scrooge, despite his disdain for the holiday season, agrees to give them “just a little bit more” because he knows that despite their inability to ever pay off their debt, he will continue to collect compounding interest and fees as long as they continue to borrow “just a little bit more.” 

It was a laughable scene for sure, but as I sat there listening to the laughter I could not help but think how much of a reality this is for people living in poverty right now. It is absurdly expensive to be poor and people living in poverty often experience this cyclical effect of never being able to get out of debt.

Here are some examples of why it is expensive to live in poverty:

  • Most people living in poverty do not have a bank account or if they do it is costing them money. 28.3% of Americans conduct at least some of their financial transactions outside of mainstream banking, like check-cashing services or payday loans.Payday loans cost an average of more than 138% in interest and fees.
  • For those that cannot afford a reliable vehicle to get to and from work or doctor’s appointments, they often rely on public transportation, which unfortunately can be time consuming and expensive, if available at all. Or, if they do have a vehicle, it may be unreliable and use a large amount of gas compared to newer fuel efficient cars.
  • If you are living in poverty, it may be difficult to come up with the deposit, first months, and last month’s rent often required to move into an apartment or house. The alternative is places that will allow you to pay week to week, such as a budget motel. However, this can be very expensive in the long run.
  • Little things like having to go to a Laundromat because you cannot afford a washer or dryer, add up quickly for a person living in poverty.
  • To avoid going without some things, like a washer and dryer, people in poverty sometimes feel their only option is to rent-to-own, where the price they end up paying can be double or triple the price they would pay if they could pay for it in full.

Poverty is a cycle in which people get trapped and often see no way out of. Then to top that off we tend to blame people for their poverty conditions. This is exactly the reason we have terms like “moochers” in describing people in poverty.

What we really need “just a little bit more” of is an understanding of the barriers that keep people in that trap of poverty and then top that off with “just a little bit more” empathy and compassion.