It’s common to imagine poverty as the person holding a sign at the intersection or the person who refuses to work and sleeps under the bridge, because as most know, these persons do exist. However, those individuals make up only a small percentage of people living in poverty. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor reported at least 10 million people who worked but were still below the U.S. poverty line in the year 2011 (See also, How Expensive It Is To Be Poor, Charles Blow 2014). We must work to disregard stereotypes and accurately define poverty. Then, we may commence the necessary discussions needed to address it.
The Bridges Out of Poverty framework defines poverty as the “extent to which an individual does without resources.” Resources are not just financial. They include emotional needs, support systems, and coping strategies, as well as others. Resources are all the things that help individuals function in and contribute to their community. Anyone who lacks too many of these resources may live in poverty. Blaming individuals for their situations, while unaware of their resources, typically does more harm than good.
We as nonprofits, employers, and members of the community must work to provide resources for those in poverty who may live without. Giving them those extra tools; those resources, we will help bridge the poverty gap and build towards sustainable communities.