While government officials claim that welfare "reform" is working, the facts contradict that myth. Reports continue to show that half to three-quarters of welfare recipients are simply being dumped. No one really knows what is happening to them, except for widespread reports of an increased demand for emergency assistance.
In this situation, we need to reassess the 1996 welfare legislation and make needed midcourse corrections. Political leaders should stop boasting about getting people off welfare and make a commitment to help millions of families out of poverty. That task will require cooperative efforts in every community.
As Call to Renewal focuses on the creation and development of local roundtables, we are witnessing a coming together of the churches along with political and business leaders. The new commitment that is needed is appearing in an increasing number of communities. Call convener Jim Wallis and national field organizer Rev. Emory Searcy Jr. have visited nearly 30 communities so far this year.
In January, Wallis spoke at the annual prayer breakfast of the West Virginia state legislature, where legislators of both parties eagerly received the message. The president of the West Virginia Council of Churches agreed to coordinate a West Virginia Call to Renewal table.
Call to Renewal of Memphis, Tennessee, is focusing on education as one key to overcoming poverty. The table is working on family support, after-school, and preschool child care programs.