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Urban Poverty

“We have extensively looked at poverty in America, and poverty worldwide, from a variety of angles – and in all kinds of locations around the country. We’ve interviewed a good number of people trying to impact it. We have moved to rough urban neighborhoods to do outreach work. And we have talked to the poor themselves, at length. This is a huge, and growing, issue – not only in America, but around the world. And it needs a lot more attention. Our administration would provide that, in spades.” --Joe

Part One

Part Two




Joe’s blog entries about urban poverty, and metro areas in general…


Joe on urban poverty 

Joe on the Catholic Workers in the city 

Joe on Cleveland 

Joe on Atlanta 

Joe on South Bend 


Sample blog entries on poverty…


3/25/10 We’re in Atlanta, Georgia, to look at urban poverty issues… Today we attended a presentation by Kevin Moran, a long-time social justice advocate. He, tongue in cheek, said the following were some Atlanta “Chamber of Commerce” figures. For instance, the fastest growing group of homeless people in Atlanta are: children under the age of nine. And Atlanta is the poorest city in the country for children. As an example, 48% of the children in Atlanta living below the poverty level — live in families with annual incomes of less than $15,000 a year.  


9/19/10 We’re back home in Cleveland. A few entries back, I wrote about the relative tranquility and security often found in small town America. Here, it’s different. As I write this late Saturday night, a police helicopter is flying low and searching the neighborhood.   Pit bulls stand guard behind rusty fences. People drink and smoke pot on their porches, play loud rap music and, with some frequency, yell at each other, fight. It’s a different world. One decidedly on the edge…


12/14/09 I went to a Catholic Worker social event Saturday night. Sitting next to me was a man I hadn’t seen before. I asked him where he was from. He said he’d just gotten out of prison, for armed robbery. He’d been in for 10 years, this time. Previously, he’d been in for three years for armed robbery. He told me he grew up in the projects of inner city Chicago. From an early age was involved with gangs. It was one of only a few ways to survive down there, he said. During these years, he’d been shot in the eye and lost his sight in it. He said violence was a way of life and it was unusual for him to go through a day in Chicago “without hearing gunshots.” This time out, he has hooked up with a non-profit group called Companions on the Journey and he wants to start a mentoring program through the organization — to help kids who are in similar situations to what he was in as a youth.  



***Read Joe’s position paper on poverty, addressing both American forms of poverty, and poverty worldwide… 


More Joe blog entries on poverty…


9/1/09 This last week I met with Mike Cobbler, who is a representative for St. Joseph County’s Bridges Out of Poverty Initiative. This program examines the sources and impact of generational poverty on families and communities, reveals the hidden rules and norms of social classes, and supports addressing and solving generational poverty. Mr. Cobbler said: “God has given enough resources that all life can be sustained. But people have failed us, policies have failed us and our personal lifestyles have failed us.” Bridges has set up a series of classes throughout the community that outline some of the systemic reasons for poverty, how people function within each socio-economic strata, and how one can (through goal setting, being mentored, and so on…) break the cycle of poverty. To help, those taking the courses are twinned with “allies.” That is, volunteers who will be there for Bridge’s students at every turn to help with strategies for success. “So often the poor are simply living in ‘the tyranny of the moment,” said Mr. Cobbler. They are just treading water trying to make the rent each month, scratching to get money for a car repair, sweating over whether there’ll be enough food for the kids… Mr. Cobbler added that in the three years the program has been in existence in South Bend, Indiana, there have already been some 200 graduates of the 14 week program. Note: Bridges liaisons with the courts, with mental health agencies, drug and alcohol agencies, with social services… in the hopes of creating an extensive referral safety net for those in need.


12/14/11 I talked with Bluffton University professor Don Hooley. Back from a sabbatical to India, he said it wasn’t uncommon to see a family of four there living in one 15 ft. by 15 ft. room, complete with a small kitchen, small bathroom, and electricity.What’s more, he said people in these situations consider themselves: “doing well.” On the other end of the spectrum, and on the other side of the world, we live like kings by comparison, including people in, say, the lower-middle-class here. But this shouldn’t be about “counting our blessings.” This should be about going to things like house sharing, and the like, and taking the savings to help our brothers and sisters living in Third World slum dwellings without the kitchen, the bathroom, or electricity. We have become so gluttonous about our “space” in this country. Note: On a campaign stop in Stamford, Connecticut, a couple years back, we met with an attorney who taught at a university in India for a time and was tremendously impacted by the poverty he saw in some of the slums there. So impacted, in fact, he came back and googled the “international average salary,” which was a little more than $9,000 at the time. He decided to live on this, and started by moving his family into a small trailer.  He takes the rest of his income and gives it to humanitarian aid agencies working in India.





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