The New Approach to Combating Poverty Starts with Expanding Opportunity
The recent release of the US Census Bureau’s 2009 poverty data carried a startling headline: nearly 4 million more Americans fell into poverty in the last year. Now, 43.6 million of our fellow citizens live under the weight of poverty.
43.6 million people.
1 in 7 Americans.
Too often these numbers are viewed as mere statistics or data points, when in fact they are parents, children, neighbors, and friends. They have names and faces and life stories. And as their numbers continue to grow, so does the complexity of their needs.
The reality is that the traditional way of combating poverty is not working, and this is precisely why LIFT was founded over a decade ago. At LIFT, we believe that poverty is complicated, but getting help should not have to be.
We understand that it takes an incredible amount of support just to get by—let alone thrive—in life, and for those living under the weight of poverty, resources to pay for that help are simply not available. LIFT’s model ushers in a new era in the response to domestic poverty, one where we recognize and respond to the need for customized support and deliver it in a manner that respects the dignity and potential of every client. In our service centers in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., trained volunteers and clients work one-on-one to chart a path out of poverty. LIFT ensures that our services do not simply end with a job; we explore additional stabilizers like affordable housing, utilities assistance, food stamps, or referrals to free health clinics—all associated components necessary to build a stable life. LIFT also works to equip clients with an “internal toolkit” of skills like problem-solving and goal-setting abilities, designed to help them build confidence and bounce back from setbacks.
Simultaneously, the LIFT experience pushes volunteers to grapple with our country’s most challenging issues related to poverty, race, inequality, and policy. They gain a better understanding of the realities of poverty and the actions necessary to change the systems and policies that stifle social mobility. As volunteers, they are able to identify ways to create options for their clients now, and as alumni, they prioritize initiatives that promote opportunity and prosperity for all, from the careers they pursue to the votes they cast.
Poverty is a growing issue in our country—one that is pressing, but not insurmountable. LIFT is honored to join the Opportunity Nation coalition to combat poverty and expand opportunity for all people in the United States. By working alongside some of the most passionate and innovative minds and organizations in the country, we can put opportunity at the front of the national dialogue and recommit to being a country where the American Dream is once again a reality.
Photo 1 courtesy of Pamela Chris Mabry.
Photo 2 courtesy of Mark Beane/Loyola University Chicago.
To learn about and join the LIFT movement, visit www.liftcommunities.org. Interact with LIFT at:
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Our Blog: www.liftcommunities.org/blog
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