Poverty

Jim Wallis 5-21-2015

During a broad conversation on how to overcome poverty at Georgetown University last week, President Barack Obama made a few comments about how Fox News talks about poor people. Here’s what he said:

“ … over the last 40 years, sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top, or to be mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, don’t want to work, are lazy, are undeserving, got traction. … I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu — they will find folks who make me mad … They’re like, I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obama phone — or whatever. And that becomes an entire narrative … very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress — which is much more typical — who’s raising a couple of kids and is doing everything right but still can’t pay the bills.

Bet Olson 5-21-2015

Shirley, an employee at Dignity Coconuts. Photo courtesy of Dignity.

I love the story of Shirley. Her family was struggling to survive in the Philippines—a nation plagued with poverty and modern-day slavery. Her husband Ramir took whatever small jobs he could to help the family, but without land, his only options were to work helping on a rice farm or a fishing boat. The pay was irregular and unsustainable, so he made the tough choice to look for work in a bigger city and send money back to Shirley and their three kids. Shirley applied to work at Dignity. She was skeptical as she had never worked with a team and doubted her abilities. When Dignity hired her, it changed her life and her family. Shirley was able to make a consistent income from Dignity. The cycle of poverty and human trafficking was stopped in its tracks.

the Web Editors 5-20-2015
Image via Dan Holm/shutterstock.com

Image via Dan Holm/shutterstock.com

The city council of Los Angeles agreed to draft a plan to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 on Tuesday, the LA Times reports.

The plan would raise minimum wage by $6 — from $9 an hour to $15 — by 2020 for some 800,000 workers.

Not all are in favor of the plan, according to the LA Times

The council’s decision is part of a broader national effort to alleviate poverty, said Maria Elena Durazo, former head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Raising the wage in L.A., she said, will help spur similar increases in other parts of the country.

Some labor leaders have expressed dissatisfaction with the gradual timeline elected leaders set for raising base wages. But on Tuesday the harshest criticism of the law came from business groups, which warned lawmakers that the mandate would force employers to lay off workers or leave the city altogether.

“The very people [council members’] rhetoric claims to help with this action, it's going to hurt,” said Ruben Gonzalez, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for public policy and political affairs.

Los Angeles joins Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle in raising the wage in recent months. Read more here.

Jarrod McKenna 5-19-2015
Image via Ollyy/shutterstock.com

Image via Ollyy/shutterstock.com

So our First Home Project car was stolen, and was recently found by the police. (Yay!) 

Unfortunately it now has more graffiti in it than a public toilet. (Booo.)

We use it to teach people how to drive so they can get a job and build a new life. (Yay!!!)

Judging by the damage to the car's front, side, and back, looks like these young locals could have done with a few driving lessons themselves. (Booo.)

Fortunately the spare tire is still in the boot. (Yay!)

Unfortunately it's now covered in what looks like dry blood. (Booo. ...And a serious amount of "What the!?!" and "Lord have mercy!") 

5-15-2015
This week, Washington saw a high-profile example of another new way conservative evangelicals and Catholics are teaming up in public more — a summit around poverty.
Photo via REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi / RNS

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, right. Photo via REUTERS / Alessandro Bianchi / RNS

Caritas Internationalis, the global Catholic charitable organization, has elected Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle as its new president, just months after the up-and-coming prelate welcomed Pope Francis to the Philippines.

Tagle, sometimes dubbed “the Asian Francis,” was elected on May 14 by delegates attending Caritas’ general assembly in Rome. He is the first Asian president of the organization and takes over from Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, another Francis confidant, who served two terms as Caritas chief.

Greg Williams 5-14-2015
Image via Kukhmar/shutterstock.com

Image via Kukhmar/shutterstock.com

Robert Putnam, who spoke this Monday at Georgetown for the Catholic-Evangelical Summit on Overcoming Poverty, gives a great stump speech for poor kids who are falling through the cracks in our society. So much so that moderator John Carr described Putnam as an Old Testament prophet with charts — Isaiah, with a good grasp of Powerpoint.

Our culture has been terrible at providing opportunities to poor children. Putnam’s data finds that poor children have fewer chances to do well in school and less parental involvement, and are generally isolated from society and even from church. With this background, we shouldn’t be surprised that children who are born into poverty have trouble finishing college and building a stable, prosperous life.

Putnam calls this the "chief moral crisis of our time." 

Photo via Georgetown University / RNS

President Obama appeared at Georgetown University on May 12, 2015. Photo via Georgetown University / RNS

The African-American boy who grew up without a father, who started his work life as a community organizer on the payroll of a Catholic agency, and who later became U.S. president had plenty to say about poverty in our “winner-take-all” economy.

President Obama spoke May 12 of “ladders of opportunity” once denied to blacks and now being dismantled for poor whites as their difficult lives get that much more difficult.

“It’s hard being poor. It’s time-consuming. It’s stressful,” he said.

Obama joined two policy voices from the left and right in a rare moment of participating in a panel discussion, part of a three-day symposium at Georgetown University on combating poverty. The audience of 700 included 120 Catholic and evangelical leaders.

5-12-2015
Whenever President Barack Obama wades into the debate over the causes of poverty, he often encounters critics at both ends of the ideological spectrum.
5-12-2015
On Monday in Washington, a diverse group of 120 political, religious and civic leaders including President Obama will gather at Georgetown University for a three-day Catholic-Evangelical leadership summit on poverty, in large part thanks to Pope Francis.
Rachel Held Evans 5-11-2015
Photo via Lucian Coman / Shutterstock.com / RNS

A mother holds her daughter in Mmankgodi village, Botswana. Photo via Lucian Coman / Shutterstock.com / RNS

There are more than 220 million women in developing countries who don’t want to get pregnant, but who lack access to family planning information and contraceptives. Every year, nearly 300,000 of them will die during pregnancy or from complications giving birth. Far too many mothers will bury their babies before they even get to know the sound of their laughter. More than 2.6 million babies will be stillborn, and another 2.9 million will die before they are a month old.

Giving women the opportunity to time their pregnancies and space out their children through effective, low-cost contraception is key to turning around these heartbreaking numbers.

5-07-2015
As Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Mike Huckabee each begin their presidential campaigns, the Circle of Protection is asking them what they would do to help hungry and poor people if elected.
5-07-2015
As Carly Fiorina begins her presidential campaign, the Circle of Protection is asking her what she would do to help hungry and poor people if elected.
5-07-2015
As Mike Huckabee begins his presidential campaign, the Circle of Protection is asking him what he would do to help hungry and poor people if elected.
5-07-2015
As Ben Carson begins his presidential campaign, the Circle of Protection is asking him what he would do to help hungry and poor people if elected.
5-04-2015
It will take more than smiles and hugs to make Sandtown-Winchester a neighborhood that inspires hope, rather than despair.
4-30-2015
As U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders launches his presidential campaign, the Circle of Protection is asking him to record a video telling Americans what he would do to help hungry and poor people if elected.
4-23-2015
The World Bank is teaming up with global religious leaders in a 15-year effort to end extreme poverty by 2030.
Heather Adams 4-22-2015
Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Mike Theiler / RNS

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Mike Theiler / RNS

The World Bank is teaming up with global religious leaders in a 15-year effort to end extreme poverty by 2030.

About 35 religious groups worldwide, including Bread for the World, Islamic Relief International, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Sojourners, endorsed the call to action. Supporters include Christians, Jews, Muslims, Baha’is, and others.

“Our approach to this staggering need must be holistic, rooted in the spiritual visions of our respective faiths, and built on a shared recognition of the intrinsic dignity and value of every life on Earth,” the call said.

Observers say it’s the first time the World Bank has tapped the reach and resources of religious groups in combating extreme poverty — partly out of a realization that the work is too big for any one institution, and also in hopes of limiting unnecessary duplication between the World Bank’s ideas and those of various religious groups.

“There’s a real convergence between these dual goals of the bank and many of the commitments and convictions of religious institutions and organizations,” said the Rev. Adam Taylor, a Sojourners and World Vision alum who now oversees faith-based initiatives at the World Bank.

During an April 9 teleconference, Wold Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the number of people living in extreme poverty — living on less than $1.25 per day — has fallen from 2 billion in 1990 to 1 billion today. And he strongly believes that with enough support, that figure could be eliminated in another 15 years.

But Kim said that in order to reach the goal, there will be two important aspects to the fight to end poverty: gathering evidence on what works and what doesn’t work in combating poverty, and enlisting the aid of religious communities.

“I believe that some of the most important leaders in the movement to end extreme poverty will be people of faith, people who are motivated fundamentally to help the most vulnerable among us,” Kim said.

Christian Piatt 4-21-2015
Image via Michael Warwick/shutterstock.com

Image via Michael Warwick/shutterstock.com

For my privileged, perhaps overly comfortable children, something as trivial as our Internet being down constitutes a crisis. When we do our “gratitude inventory” (aka, a way to get them to reflect and pray), they rattle off things as a matter of routine that many people would only dream of.

So how do I explain something as alien and complex a state as being part of the working poor in a way they can have a at least a chance to internalize?

This was part of my goal in taking on My Jesus Project, a year-long endeavor to more deeply understand what we mean when we talk about following Jesus: to move from ignorance to empathy, which can only be achieved sometimes through direct, personal experiences.

For a month, I was assigned by one of my “Jesus Mentors” to go out of my way to walk and/or take public transportation to get places, with the intention that I would come into contact with people I might otherwise miss or overlook. As I did it, I realized my kids could benefit from it as well.

The first sign that they needed such an experience was that when I announced to them we were taking the bus and train to do our family activities one weekend, they were excited. It was a new experience for them, rather than a necessity. As for the mile-long walks to get from place to place when the transit system didn’t get us exactly where we were going — they were a little less thrilled with that. And yet, we slowed down more, spent more time talking, and while on the public systems, I noticed we looked each other in the eye a lot more, rather than all facing forward (with the kinds inevitably with their faces fixed on a screen) in the car.

My son, Mattias, who is on the high end of the autism spectrum, is a keen observer, and I suppose a natural byproduct of that is that he asks questions. A lot of questions.

“Dad,” he said, after jumping off the final leg of the bus route one day, “why were some of the people sleeping on the bus?”

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