During the next few weeks, we will be looking at our call as a Matthew 25 Church and how that relates to poverty.
There are some questions we need to answer as we explore this problem and our role in solving it.
What is “systemic” poverty?
Systemic poverty refers to the economic exploitation of people who are poor through laws, policies, practices and systems that perpetuate their impoverished status. We live in a world where not all have equal access to education, transportation, fresh food, financial resources, clean air, water or healthy environments, employment with a living wage, healthcare, benefits, citizenship, and affordable housing. This lack of access creates generational cycles of poverty and a racial wealth gap that are systemic in nature. An individual cannot change their economic and social location easily by just “working harder.” Meanwhile the many, interlocking disadvantages often are compounded by choices to stay near family or a particular location or employment opportunity, or by gender and racial injustice, trauma, violence, immigration status, impacts from climate change and environmental degradation, and other complicating issues.
Why are people poor?
Individuals are economically poor for diverse, complicated, and unique reasons that stem from living in a world in which economic policies and practices trap some people in persistent poverty while enabling others to accumulate wealth. Wealth or profit often accrues on one side of the equation, often precisely because on the other side of the equation laborers are not paid fair wages, given health or safety protections, employed full-time or long-term, offered benefits, or given voice, power or influence.
Why can’t people work themselves out of poverty?
In the United States, social safety nets and government programs to provide food, housing assistance, healthcare, and employment often fail to meet basic needs and do not provide adequate or equitable access to these resources. Poverty is also often compounded by where a person is born and lives– certain geographic regions, communities and neighborhoods cannot easily access resources that could improve their situations. Around the world, international trade deals, government corruption, armed conflict, and climate change exacerbate conditions of poverty. While there is no simple or easy solution, we do know that communities can become safer, happier, and have an increased sense of well-being when they have vision, leadership, and find allies in their quest self-empowered sustainable development.