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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Poverty Comes In All Kinds Of Hideous Packages

Poverty Comes In All Kinds Of Hideous Packages




10 Ways To Fight Poverty in America


here are immediate and longer-term ways to join the movement to end poverty in the U.S.Consider donating new and gently used clothes, books, toys, and cars (ok, maybe not new cars), for instance, or join an organizing or legislative campaign committed to poverty eradication and fulfilling the human rights of our nation's poor. What follows is a non-exhaustive list; please tell us how you've been successful in fighting poverty!
Recognize our shared humanity: Our desire to erase the poor through public policy only denies all of us full access to the government programs and services we expect. Too many of us do our damndest to not see the poor, or to blame them for their lot. This is psychologically reassuring, denying the reality that any one of us is at risk for losing our job or having a catastrophic accident, or being paid less than our co-workers, or making heat-of-the-moment choices that might lead to an unplanned pregnancy - all risks that can lead to rising costs, unpayable bills, prolonged unemployment, hunger, eviction or foreclosure. The current recession will kick millions of Americans (back) into poverty - are you one of the 4 million on "shaky ground"? Either way, opening your mind to your linked fate with poorer Americans is the critical first step in fighting poverty.
Educate Yourself! There are a handful of intertwined issues that compound disadvantage for poor Americans: a nationwide lack of affordable housing leads to displacement and lack of access to good jobs. The same can be said for our country's sorry state of public education, college un-affordability, dependency on cars and lack of public transportation systems linking jobs and residential neighborhoods. Racial injustice leads to housing end employment discrimination, denying low-income people of color full access to safe neighborhoods and well-paying, secure jobs, which reinforces their entrapment in low-wage work and in dangerous neighborhoods. In the latter the criminal justice system has become the de facto guardian for too many young black men. Domestic violence and policies restricting access to contraception and abortion disproportionately hurt low-income women. Through reading and outreach you can deepen your understanding of the anti-poverty aspects of workers' rights, immigrants' rights, women's rights,reproductive justice, environmental justice, racial justice and economic human rights movements.
Reframe the debate: You're going to see the phrase "economic human rights" (see Article 11) a lot around here. This is a somewhat dormant movement that's been revived in recent years, as anti-poverty and human rights activists coalesce around the reality that living in deprivation quashes people's human rights. That is, due to a lack of money and resources, people also lack access to good jobs, secure housing, quality education, adequate nutrition and good health, and full participation in society. Economic human rights activists fight for the fulfillment of these rights to housing, education, work, food and health, framing poverty as both a cause and consequence of human rights violations. It's powerful, and fits well with the concepts of social inclusion/exclusion. Think about it.
Speak Out! "Stand Up and Speak Out" is an annual global action against worldwide poverty and inequality. We need to be doing the same about domestic poverty. Speaking up and speaking out is what motivates all of us here at; it's the impetus behind the rise of poverty simulations in cities to raise awareness about poverty. Being vocal and being active about poverty and social inequality is a minimum daily activity for each of us in the fight to end poverty in the U.S.
Join a campaign to end poverty: We've highlighted at this site Catholic Charities' Campaign to cut poverty in half by 2020. The Center for American Progress has made a similar pledge. Umbrella groups like the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign post actions needing support, as well as list member organizations nationwide that have their own initiatives and need for volunteers, donations and your commitment. See Action #2 for different rights-based movements through which you can fight poverty.
Take legislative action: Most campaigns include a legislative advocacy component. Citizen-driven resources like have search engines where you can research and track anti-poverty legislation. Support national and local non-profits such as the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, the Louisiana Association of Non-Profits or MA Interfaith Worker Justice in their efforts to develop and drive pro-poor, anti-poverty legislation in areas such as affordable housing and education, living wages, food security, universal healthcare, child care, Gulf Coast recovery, adult literacy, early childhood education, prisoner re-entry, and sanctuary for undocumented workers.
Volunteer: With kids, families, the elderly, the disabled, the homeless, women, and the mentally ill; in shelters, community centers, after school programs, prisons, and employment centers; teach literacy,resume development, job training courses, ESL classes, and computer classes; coach sports; serve food;provide counseling; help low-income Americans apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit this spring.
Donate: money, toys, clothes (especially sizes L/XL for women!) - including suits, food, cars, and furniture.
Join Boycotts & Support Unions: If you can afford it, join boycotts of corporations that exploit workers orprey on low-income communities. Furthermore, unions offer higher wages, benefits and economic security to workers in all economic brackets. For low-wage workers, union wages can make the different between living below the poverty line or rising above it. Support the AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations, and the Employee Free Choice Act, which could come up for a vote this spring.
Support Gulf Coast recovery: Katrina was the "tipping point" in the public's wholesale rejection of Bush. Pollster John Zogby thinks it will be the "defining moment" for at least a generation. Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the deadliest disasters in American history, and it has permanently displaced almost 70,000 low-income New Orleanians (never mind their neighbors across the Gulf Coast) - that's almost 20% of the city's pre-storm population! Our nation was horrified by the depth of poverty and gross government negligence on display after the flood, yet in less than six months the phrase "Katrina fatigue"was in our lexicon. New Orleans was one of the poorest cities in the country prior to the 2005 storms. Its post-storm population is now more affluent, on average - and also more white. Close to 5,000 units of subsidized housing have been demolished; thousands more remain vacant and damaged. Less than 40% of renters across Louisiana now have access to affordable units; the homeless population in New Orleans alone has doubled - while most of the agencies that serve them are gone. The public hospital remains shuttered and slated for demolition to make way for a newer version of an existing operating hospital. The city is one of the deadliest in the country. Mobilizing around New Orleans and Gulf Coast recovery is a signature test of our commitment to fighting poverty and inequality.


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