Thursday, October 16, 2014

What we as a community can do to reduce poverty.

By not blaming the individual or the whole system we can begin working together to solve real problems for our community.  As we begin to build a Bridge the Gap Rogers County Steering Committee we will be addressing our community root problems that may be causing or contributing to poverty in Rogers County.  The bigger the Bridges initiative in our community is and the more sectors (such as business, government, health, colleges, and schools) that are involved, the more momentum there will be for fighting poverty.

What kind of solutions are we talking about?

Individual – Participate in Getting Ahead Classes, choose to go back to school, choose to never use a pay day lender again, each individual will have to evaluate their personal choices.

Community Condition – Does the community offer literacy classes, have enough living wage jobs or have a public transportation system.

Exploitation or predator businesses – Banks and Credit Unions offer small medium rate loans to people trying to build or repair credit.  Financial institutions could also offer investment, checking and money management classes. 

Political/Economic Structure – Discuss government policy and economic difficulties with a Getting Ahead graduate and learn what some of the barriers they encounter daily.  Most living in upper- and middle-class do not know what problems exist for people living in poverty.  Through associations and connections, organizations can influence people in positions of power.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Weeks four and five - Researching the causes of poverty.

During weeks four and five, we study the rich/poor gap and research the causes of poverty. For the participants this may seem like a useless study—they know they lack funds while others have abundance, and what caused this doesn’t seem important; they just want to get ahead. But studying the gap and its causes is proving to be of great benefit. 

 Generally speaking, people tend to sit in one of two camps: conservatives at the “individual choice” end of the continuum and liberals at “the system” end. Getting Ahead steps away from the politics of poverty in the US and looks at society as a whole. Instead of either/or, we say both/and. There are four main causes of poverty: Individual choice, behavior, and circumstance; community conditions; exploitation (predators); and political/economic structure.

 I’ll give a brief breakdown of the four causes and later I will discuss what we as a community can do to knock down barriers and build a more stable, stronger community in which we all live well. 

Individual choice, behavior, and circumstance – This seems like a simple enough idea, but often one poor choice can lead to a lifetime of struggle and future bad choices, especially if the choice was made in our youth. 

Community conditions – Do community organizations, businesses, and city leaders actively seek ways to manage or eliminate poverty?

Exploitation or predator businesses – If you are subject to the “tyranny of the moment” and have to have a concrete solution to a pressing problem today, you may consider going to a “predator business” to solve your problem. We discuss how using payday loans, rent-to-own, or pay-by-the-week car purchases only worsen your situation. 

Political/economic structure – Are the government policies designed to help the poor really working? Are there living wage jobs for all citizens?

The bottom line is that a community must recognize and work on all causes of poverty to achieve a lower poverty level. 


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Week three studies the Theory of Change

During week three we discussed the Theory of Change from Getting Ahead.  People with limited resources often live in the concrete “this moment in time” also refereed to as the Tyranny of the Moment.  When you have limited resources your daily life is consumed with taking care of problems such as how to get to work if your car is broken, how to pay the utility bills, how to feed your family.  All this problem solving leaves little time for abstract thinking like detachment from problems that will in able you to think about new ideas, analysis of situation, education, plans and support.  Our Getting Ahead classes give the participants three hours a week to focus on their situation and make a better plan.