The Word of the Year: Open
In lieu of making resolutions, some people choose a theme or word that can serve as a guiding principle for a new year. In that spirit, I’ve been inspired by Pastor Rob Fuquay, to propose embracing “OPEN” as the “word of the year” as we work to turn back poverty in Central Indiana.
Think of the implications: We would all be open to new connections and relationships … open to fresh ideas and approaches … open to new faces at the table, new voices in the conversation and new hands in the prayer circle … open to diverse perspectives, even ones that disrupt established practices, organizational comfort zones and decades of biases.
And, as a result, we would be open to long-term impact for our neighbors trapped in poverty.
We’ve learned that poverty is complex, and that breaking the cycle of poverty requires a holistic approach that leverages partnership and collaboration. Therefore, if we seek to mitigate poverty, we can’t just accept old approaches and the same results. Instead, we must encourage each other to consider whether our efforts generate real impact … whether our ministries are delivered with dignity and allow relationships to develop … whether our efforts help our neighbors in their paths to self-sufficiency … whether we are addressing systemic barriers that hold people in poverty … and whether we treat individuals who are under-resourced or re-entering as human beings and not as “the poor” or as a crime they committed.
Join us on April 30, for a day to be open to cross-sector collaboration and strategies shared by national and local anti-poverty experts and local residents. Gather friends, fellow worshippers in your faith community, peers in your service organizations, colleagues at work and others for a morning spent delving into why Indy has greater poverty than our peer cities and what we could all do to dramatically increase economic opportunities for low-income families.
Too many youths need to be told they are valuable, and too many individuals need training for livable-wage jobs. Too many neighborhoods need access to good food, and too many families need hope. Too many challenges await us for any of us to close the door to opportunity. Let’s all be open to real, meaningful change, and to a better community for us all.
Lindsey Nell Rabinowitch
Project Director, Faith & Action Project
What Success Looks Like
We talk a lot about people moving out of poverty, but many of us don’t know what that would look like. We imagine better trends on graphs and charts, but what does progress mean in real life? What happens when someone moves not just beyond tangible poverty but beyond the poverty mindset? Cindy Palmer, director of Faith & Action grant recipient Heart Change, describes it this way:
Signs of a woman transitioning out of the mental model of poverty
- She pays her rent on time almost every time. If it is going to be late, she notifies you in advance and tells you when it will be paid. She adds on the late fee herself.
- She talks more about the future than the current day’s crises and difficulties.
- She starts re-arranging her furniture and “decorating.”
- She enrolls her children in activities outside of free school or church programs.
- She initiates the high school “search” in 7th grade instead of two weeks before school starts, and dares to talk about college for her children.
- She tells you that she appreciates the food delivered at the end of the month, but asks that you please give it to someone else who needs it more than she and her family do.
- She buys insurance for her car, or makes the decision to go without a car because the ongoing costs don’t fit into her budget.
- She pays ahead on rent with her tax money.
- She maintains her yard without being reminded, and enjoys planting flowers and/or a garden.
- She calls when something in her home is broken rather than “living with or around it.”
- She no longer sees herself as a person living in poverty. “Now she sees herself in her identity as loved and pursued by Christ … and there is nothing impoverished about that identity.”
Measuring Poverty Differently
“Who counts as poor in the U.S. today?” That’s the question goodmenproject.com poses to introduce the work of Fordham University Economics Professor Sophie Mitra and University of New Hampshire Research Associate Professor Debra Brucker. Mitra and Brucker argue in a 2016 study that we should instead consider five types of “deprivation” and assume that poverty occurs when individuals or families live with two or more of those deprivations. By this measure, an additional 16 million people should be considered impoverished.
The Power of Coaching
Relatively inexpensive coaching and counseling can make a big difference in the effectiveness of poverty interventions, according to a study conducted by Harvard economist Raj Chetty. “Creating Moves to Opportunity” looked at two groups of Seattle-area voucher recipients, with both groups receiving the same vouchers but one group also receiving counseling about the benefits of moving to “higher-opportunity” neighborhoods, guidance on credit repair, and small stipends to help with security deposits and move-in costs. At an average cost of $2,600 per family, the support services yielded powerful results: According to a story in the Boston Globe, families that received additional services were nearly four times as likely to move to high-opportunity areas where their children would be positioned to make $210,000 more in their lifetimes.
Tackling Poverty in America Means Grasping Reality, by Sarah Abramsky. When the US Census Bureau announced that the US poverty rate had declined from 2017 to 2018, some people celebrated, but others argued that it isn’t that simple. In an essay for the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Abramsky notes that the basic poverty rate doesn’t consider all the factors that affect purchasing power and daily viability for impoverished families, and she suggests that the current political climate is making matters worse.
Mark your calendar for this important date.
February 21–22, 2020: Annual Spirituality and Psychotherapy Conference including Dealing with Trauma lecture. For more information, click here.
April 30, 2020: Faith & Action Spring Conference
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Faith & Action Project at Christian Theological Seminary 1000 W. 42nd Street | Indianapolis, IN 46208 Phone: (317) 931-2336 | Fax: (317) 923-1961 | Email: LRabinowitch@cts.edu | Web: www.cts.edu
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