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Archive for the ‘extreme poverty’ tag

Illinois’ Commission on the Elimination of Poverty Set to Meet on October 28

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One of the major accomplishments of the From Poverty to Opportunity Campaign in 2008 was the creation of the Commission on the Elimination of Poverty. As you may recall, this Commission was created to give the state the blueprint it needs to end poverty in a manner consistent with international human rights standards. The initial task of the Commission is to create a substantive, measurable plan that cuts extreme poverty in half by 2015.

Since the bill was signed into law back in the summer of 2008, we have waited. And waited. Appointments needed to be made that did not happen. Making things more complicated, a governor was arrested, a new governor sworn in, and a massive budget crisis (which has not gone way) jumped in front of many other issues.
Through all these roadblocks, the campaign's members have continued to push for the Commission to meet and begin its work. In September, the final appointments to the Commission were made by the leaders in the Senate. Since then, the Campaign has been working closely with the Governor's office to prepare for the Commission's first meeting, October 28 in Springfield.

This first meeting is not small accomplishment. With all the roadblocks mentioned and the fact that dozens, if not hundreds, of commissions and boards established via legislation never get off the ground, the progress on the Commission on the Elimination of Poverty is a sign of both the commitment to this issue of the thousands of individuals and organizations across the state and the importance of the issues the Commission must tackle.

As we have pointed out before, a lot has changed since we launched the Campaign in 2006, but one thing, unfortunately, remains the same. Too many people are experiencing extreme poverty in Illinois. (pdf)

Now is the time for action.

There will be numerous opportunities for people throughout the state to make their voice heard about what is needed to realize the human rights of those experiencing this extreme level of hardship. If you have not endorsed the Campaign, do it now to stay informed, show your commitment to the Campaign's goals, and help hold the Commission accountable.

Written by Doug Schenkelberg

October 16th, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Poverty is up in Illinois & How we bring it down.

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It is official. The number of people living in poverty in Illinois has grown. 12.2% of the population are now officially in poverty, translating to 1,532,238 million people.

Given the lag in official poverty statistics, this increase comes as no surprise. The recession has pushed more and more people below the poverty line. (Keep in mind, the current measure is in desperate need of updating.)

When we look at a sample of the different villages, cities, and counties throughout our state, we see a wide range of poverty rates:

Peoria - 21.4%
Arlington Heights - 3.4%
Rockford - 23.3%
Decatur - 16.3%
Vermilion County - 12.3%
Schaumburg - 6.1%
Elgin - 14.8%
Sagamon County - 11.3%

These numbers demonstrate one consistent fact - poverty is everywhere. Higher concentrations in some areas than others for sure, but no place is immune to poverty. No place is free of hardship.

So, what does this mean? A couple of things.

1) Now, more than ever, we need to focus on poverty.

When this Campaign was launched back on Human Rights Day in 2006, our world looked different. Rod Blagojevich was governor. George W. Bush was president. The economy was roaring. Unemployment was incredibly low. Poverty rates were holding steady, with some jumps and some declines.

Now, in 2009, we have a different Governor and a different President. Our economy has screeched to a halt. The state's budget woes are the worst they have been in years. Unemployment is the highest it has been in decades. And poverty is up.

As a result, our work to directly address poverty is all the more important. More people are facing lives without opportunity. Long-term solutions, that strengthen the infratructure for protecting families and human rights, are critical. People that were experiencing poverty before the recession hit are that much further from self-sufficiency, and the compliment of human services they turn to in tough times has been undermined.

There has been a curious shift during the recession. Before the recession, we commonly heard that those experiencing poverty had no one to blame but themselves. Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, too many people felt poverty was simply the result of an individual making bad choices.

There has been a shift - some of it good, some of it bad. Many are now ready to acknowledge that larger forces and systems push families into poverty. This realization has opened the door to new thinking about what as a society can do. On the flip side, there are those that say we cannot focus on poverty now. We need to focus on recovery. Well, the people that were living in poverty before the recession hit were waiting for recovery back then. If we are going to get our economy back in shape, we cannot set one group of people to the side and say we will worry about them later. It is all hands on deck. Everyone that is given true opportunity to move towards self-sufficiency helps themselves and society as a whole.

2) There are concrete things we can and are doing about poverty.

We can make a real difference in our communities and our state. Simple acts and innovative programs can go a long way to ensuring individuals and families have real opportunity. The pieces of the stimulus funding that has focused on supports has had a real impact, and we can and should continue those policies beyond the recovery act.

Here in Illinois, the most important thing we can do is fix our structural deficit. As we documented many, many, many times over the past few months, inadequate revenue has caused the programs and services that help the most vulnerable in Illinois to be threatened.

It is not an easy thing to do, but it is the right thing. There are other policies that need to be put in place, other changes that should be done, but until we fix our state's budget, we are tinkering around the edges.

3) We cannot be discouraged.

When you are working towards the goal of ending poverty, and you see the number of people in poverty increasing instead of decreasing, you may want to throw your hands up in the air and give up. That is, on some level, a rational response.

But here's the thing - we just can't.

Too many people are counting on us to keep trying. Too much good work has been done to date to stop now. Think about how much larger the number of people in poverty would be today were it not for the hard work and perseverance of dedicated people who refused to give up in the face of adversity.

No one said it would be easy. We cannot stop simply because some numbers are reminding us of this point.

We will make progress. We will work together to give families real opportunity. We will end poverty.

Written by Doug Schenkelberg

September 29th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Fiscally Sound Policy: Health Care/Housing For the Homeless

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As the debate over health care reform rages on, proponents for health care reform have been faced with a perplexing dilemma: Is the most effective argument for health care reform a moral or practical one? We here at the campaign usually take the moral route, arguing that health care is a human right that should be afforded to all men, women and children. Considering that health care reform, in all its current forms, would immensely expand health care access, the moral argument is a strong one. That health reform would expand coverage is a consensus that reaches across both sides of the political fence. Given that, opponents of reform have shifted the argument, debating whether the financial price of health reform is worth the moral benefits.

Thanks to a groundbreaking new study conducted by the Aids Foundation of Chicago, those moral benefits are now synonymous with cost efficiency. "The Chicago Housing and Health Partnership" report studied 405 chronically ill homeless, providing housing and intensive case management for health care to half the group, while letting the other half navigate the traditional system of homeless shelters and hospitals.

The results of this project, as Mark Ishaug, the President and CEO of the Aids Foundation details, were incredible:
Remarkably, homeless people who were housed were admitted to the hospital one-third fewer times than people in the control group. They also spent one-third fewer days in the hospital and went to the emergency room one-fourth fewer times.

For every 100 homeless adults offered the program intervention, there would be 49 fewer hospitalizations, 273 less days spent in the hospital, and 116 fewer emergency department visits.
As we explained a month ago, when homeless individuals do not have access to a medical home, they will seek care in an Emergency Room; this is a process that is expensive and inefficient. By providing wraparound services that coordinate programs that keep people out of poverty, this country can fulfill a moral obligation to allow its citizens to live a dignified, humane life. What's more, providing these wraparound programs can actually save large amounts of money in an era of billion dollar deficits and crippling budget cuts.

A similar program, which provides cost-efficient medical care to the uninsured and under-insured in Newark, New Jersey, will hopefully set a precedent that is imitated all across the country. Teresa Heinz who works for the foundation running the program, says her organization initiated it because "It's cost effective and it's kinder". In essence, that simple statement combines the moral argument for health care reform with the financial one.

If health care reform is morally right AND more cost effective than the current system, what exactly is the problem?

For that last statement to ring true though, the whole must be greater than the sum of its parts. As seen in the "Chicago Housing and Health-care" project, expanding health reform will only truly be cost efficient if programs to end homelessness are simultaneously put in place. The same can be said for national health reform as a whole.

This is why the report is so important; it shows that by coordinating services together, a better, more affordable outcome can be achieved than by service's working independently of each other. Health reform, as pushed by the Obama Administration is making important strides. Let's not forget the need to address needs such as food and housing though. If citizens of this country don't have a safe place to sleep or food to eat, then ultimately, health reform will not be efficient no matter how expansive it is.

Judging by the current state of affordable housing in Chicago, it looks as if we have a long road of advocacy ahead of us.

As more reports come out detailing the cost efficiency of coordinated programs, hopefully this road will be a little easier to travel.

Written by Tim Klein

September 22nd, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard Released Today

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Today our co-workers at the Social Impact Research Center released a report entitled "Getting By & Getting Ahead: The 2009 Illinois Self-Sufficiency Standard" which coincides with the launch of the innovative new website http://www.ilselfsufficiency.org/. The research is based upon findings from the 2009 Self-Sufficiency Standard, which was prepared cooperatively by the Social Impact Research Center and the University of Washington Center for Women's Welfare.

The report, using the Self-Sufficiency Standard to calculate a bare-bone budget for families of different sizes across Illinois, illustrates how much money a family would need to survive with no assistance, be it public or private.

The results were startling, to say the least.

For example, on average, an Illinois working parent of two has to make $49,030 to meet the family's most basic needs without any public or private assistance. Think that seems like a lot of money? You are not alone, as the report estimates that 1 million non-senior Illinois households make less than $49,030 a year.

This number is not derived from areas in and around Chicago, however, but the entire state. In southwest Randolph, the wage-earner in a family of three would have to earn $16.66 an hour (double the minimum wage) to reach the Self-Sufficiency annual income.

That income was based upon calculating the everyday expenses for a family: Housing, Child Care, Food, Health Care, Transportation, Taxes and Miscellaneous Items (clothing, household items, diapers, telephone service, etc). These expenses were adjusted to reflect the sliding costs for goods in each county.

What's disconcerting is what happens to the families who fall below this threshold - they either apply for public assistance or they cut back on their already depleted budget. Considering that Illinois is woefully underachieving in helping eligible families access public support programs, for many families, this is not a viable option. For the 652,000 households who have an income above the poverty line but below the Self-Sufficiency standard, many forms of income supports are not an option.

For these families, near-impossible decisions must be made.

Do you cut housing costs by moving into more affordable housing, but risk your family's safety since those units are typically in high-crime areas? Or, do you cut back on child care, but then risk losing your job since you'd then have to constantly scramble to find someone to watch your child while you are at work?

Do you buy less food, allowing your family to go hungry, or do you cut down on health care, putting the entire family at risk?

Do you reduce transportation costs, reducing already strained employment options, or do you avoid paying taxes, risking jail time?

Now think of the 680,000 Illinoisans who experience extreme poverty, which is defined as an annual income of half the federal poverty (between $5,500 and $9,000, depending on the size of the family). This population's income falls well over $30,000 short of the Self-Sufficiency Standard. Their decisions don't consist of what everyday necessities to cut, but what, if any, of these necessities they can afford to keep.

Another caveat that makes the economic realities of these families so grave is that the Self-Sufficiency incomes do not factor in accounting for savings, the monthly cost of debt and interest, or the costs associated with an emergency that would immediately drain financial resources.

This leads to more difficult decisions. For example:

Do you pay off your credit card to avoid falling into debt, do you fix your car so you can get to work on time, or do you get the tooth pulled that has been causing you extreme pain?

For a family of three who makes less than $49,030 you simply do none of these things: you don't have the extra finances to afford them anyways.

Unfortunately, there is no right decision in these scenarios; only hard ones. This is why "Getting By & Getting Ahead" will be an extremely useful advocacy tool. It contextualizes the economic struggles that low-income families in Illinois face on a daily basis. The Self-Sufficiency Standard, as opposed to the outdated Federal Poverty Line, is the new benchmark that should be used in shaping future public policy in this state.

So head over to www.ilselfsufficiency.org to access the report as well as a wealth of other valuable resources. You will find educational tools to help inform the public, counseling tools to help inform clients or friends, as well as powerful advocacy tools to educate policymakers and influence legislation.

If you would like someone to come out and present the Self-Sufficiency Standard to your organization, you can contact the author, Amy Terpstra, at research@heartlandalliance.org

Written by Tim Klein

September 16th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

New Hunger Awareness Campaign Begins Today

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Feeding Illinois (formerly the Illinois Food Bank Association), a collection of eight food banks located throughout the State launched a new campaign today. The "Snapshot of Hunger Campaign" is being held to promote the annual Hunger Awareness Month. The campaign's goal is to educate the public about the important role that food banks play. It is doing so by asking people to take a picture of 28 dollars worth of food and upload it to their website. 28 dollars isn't an arbitrary number but the amount of money a low-income family of four has to spend on food, for the entire week. Pictures are already being uploaded to the website, which are humbling to say the least. The amount of food that 28 dollars can get you looks like barely enough for two people, let alone four. When you realize that plays out to four dollars a day per person, which is barely enough for one meal at McDonald's, it makes the hard work that Illinois Food Banks put forth on a daily basis all the more magnanimous.

We encourage you to take a look at the website where you can find insightful information about what food banks do, how hunger is impacting different populations throughout Illinois, and ways that you can help make sure that none of your fellow Illinoisans will go hungry in the upcoming year.

This campaign comes at an especially important time, as Governor Quinn is threatening to close 17 Department of Human Service Offices - the same offices that Illinois families go to apply for what can be life-saving Food Stamps. The closure of these offices would surely mean a reduction in Food Stamp program participants, which puts even more pressure on already inundated Food Banks.

Actively participating in and promoting the "Snapshot of Hunger Campaign" is to take a stand against hunger. If you believe that no child or family should go hungry, do your part and support the campaign today.

Written by Tim Klein

September 14th, 2009 at 7:02 pm

The Safety Net Works, So Why Isn’t It Stronger?

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A recent report published by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) provides some very interesting insight into this country's safety net programs, especially considering the current economic crisis.

First, lets focus on the positives. The CBPP determined - surprise, surprise - that safety net programs, which consist of such programs such as cash assistance, housing assistance, food stamps and health care for poor children and adults, really work:
Safety net programs are more effective at reducing poverty than previously known. They reduce the number of poor Americans by almost half — by nearly 31 million people.

The safety net also reduces deep [extreme] poverty effectively, lifting 76 percent of deeply poor children above half of the poverty line in 2005.
This is unequivocally good news. It quantifies the effectiveness of safety net programs, and puts to rest any critic's argument about the merits of such programs. Just in case there are still skeptics however, lets look closer at what the CBPP found safety net programs accomplish:
  • Cut the number of Americans living in poverty by nearly half(44 percent)
  • Reduced the severity of poverty for those who remain poor,
  • Helped protect Americans from the deepest extremes of poverty,
  • Was more effective at lifting children in less-deeply-poor families from just below the poverty line to above the poverty line than it had been a decade earlier.
When implemented properly, the safety net effectively achieves its goal: it helps families avoid sinking into poverty, and it aids families in pulling themselves out of poverty. Unfortunately in the last 10 years, implementation of safety net programs focuses on aiding certain populations at the expense of others.

Specifically, most safety net programs have eligibility restrictions that require participants to be employed to receive services. These requirements essentially deny persons in extreme poverty, those living below 50 percent of the poverty line, much needed services. The numbers from CBPP reflect this:
  • In 1995, all means-tested benefits together lifted 87 percent of children who would otherwise have been below half of the poverty line out of deep [extreme] poverty. By 2005 this figure had dropped to 72 percent.

  • In 1995, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) (which preceded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) lifted 62 percent of children who would otherwise have been below half of the poverty line out of deep poverty. By 2005 this figure for the TANF program was just 21 percent.
What is the cause of this decrease in families experiencing poverty being helped by the safety net? The CBPP believes that the primary reason is a severe reduction in TANF cash assistance programs:
The largest single reason why the safety net protected fewer children against deep poverty was the loss of TANF. Over the 1996-2005 period, TANF cash assistance programs served a shrinking share of very poor families with children. The number of children shielded from deep poverty by TANF cash assistance dropped by 1.6 million — from 2.2 million in 1995 to 645,000 in 2005.
Here are the figures in illustrative form:



Simply put, TANF cash assistance programs are directly correlated to extreme poverty rates of Illinois children. Compared to the rest of the country, Illinois is woefully underachieving in making sure eligible families are accessing the program. Illinois only provides TANF cash assistance to nine percent of all children in the state who are eligible for those services - the very services that provide the most important safe guards in keeping children out of poverty.


Given the Illinois State Budget limbo, and the steady increase in current social service providers having to reduce their programming, services are being cut at a time when they are needed most. When this reality is combined with the highest unemployment rates in 25 years, the safety net in Illinois is far from adequate.

All that being said, there are options to greatly improve the current TANF programs, namely bills HB745 & HB2383. Both these bills aim to greatly improve access to TANF services, which in turn will help bring children and families out of extreme poverty. We have already highlighted why these bills are important - they expand eligibility for these needed programs, increase the outreach to those eligible, and make it so the programs meet people where they are at in order to truly help them move towards self-sufficiency.

Both bills passed out of the General Assembly in May and are sitting on the governor's desk waiting to be signed. Each of these initiatives are great steps in improving the nine percent share of eligible children and families who receive cash assistance, which in turn will directly aid in keeping children out of extreme poverty.

The State of Illinois, in partnership with the Poverty to Opportunity Campaign, has made a commitment to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. Governor Quinn, by signing both of these bills, would bolster these efforts in a very real way.

Now is the time to prove that commitment.



Written by Tim Klein

July 8th, 2009 at 8:16 pm

No Calm Before The Storm

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Today it became official that nothing is official. After much political jockeying and stonewalling, a joint legislative session has been called for July 14th, where hopefully a fair state budget will be decided upon.

While an extreme optimist may cite Quinn vetoing the 50% budget a victory for social service providers, this is more of a situation in which the cup is three-quarters empty.

No, the lights won't go out in the state of Illinois, but the same cannot be said for the human service providers who are trapped in this budget limbo.

As we pointed out yesterday, the inactivity of this state's government to pass a fair budget has already caused irreparable damage, which will surely continue.

That continuation of damage, only a day into this budget-less fiscal year, did not take long to emerge.

Macon County is facing a harsh reality, where social service agencies such as Dove Incorporated and Macon Resources are forced to make drastic cuts:

In lieu of a state budget, Dove, Inc was forced to layoff a third of its employees and services along with them:

At Dove, the layoffs mean the end of Fresh Start Catering and the job training it has provided to homeless people since February 2008, and the agency's diversity program, a longtime community education initiative that helped organize events such as a panel discussion at the Decatur Civic Center in February exploring disparities in health care.

It also means scaling back the Community Services Program working with neighborhood groups and the domestic violence program,

Macon Resources had to make similar tough decisions:
Gone are the agency's group care for adults and children, sheltered work program for people with developmental disabilities, support that allowed clients to live independently and a self-advocacy program.

"We'll have 136 people who won't get service tomorrow and 14 people who don't have jobs," Lewandowski said Tuesday. "I feel like crap, and I'm angry because this all could have been worked out a long time ago."

At the child advocacy center, the doors will remain open for now, but a children's therapist, case manager and part-time administrative assistant have been notified their last day is Thursday.
In Bloomington, a meeting among social services outlined a situation which is sadly similar:

At the meeting, the following were among the cuts reported:

  • The Crisis Nursery for children whose parents are in immediate crisis is reducing its hours.
  • Assistance to runaway youth will be reduced.
  • Subsidized child care for the working poor is being reduced, meaning many of those parents will need to quit their jobs to stay home with their kids, increasing the unemployment rate.
  • Services to help keep older adults in their homes are being slashed, meaning more seniors may have to move into more expensive nursing homes.
  • Staff at the GED office will be reduced.
  • Counseling for sex abuse victims is being reduced.
  • Mental health treatment and counseling for the non-Medicaid population is being reduced.
Chicago is feeling the affects as well:
  • Intact Family Recovery - This program offers care and support to substance impacted children and their parents. Parents affected by cutting this program: 133
    Staff laid off: 6
  • Urban Systems of Care - This program offers outreach and engagement services to residents of poverty stricken areas of Chicago.
    Parents and children affected by cutting this program: 61
    Staff laid off: 4.5
  • Mental Health Juvenile Justice - This program offers support to mentally ill youth as they deal with legal issues in Cook County Courts and with their probation officers
    Youth affected by cutting this program: 60
    Staff laid off: 4
This very well may be only the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, the agencies listed above are serving as an all-too-real reminder of how fragile the existence of critical human service organizations really are.

It is hard to even imagine the damage that will be done if a reduced budget is actually passed. As of now we have 14 days to advocate on behalf of organizations in danger.


Written by Tim Klein

July 1st, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Weekly Poverty News 10/20- 10/26

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Written by archive

October 27th, 2008 at 11:30 am

It’s supposed to be 40 degrees and raining this Saturday night

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We like to able to solve problems and we like solutions to problems that we can wrap our heads around.

Could this be why talking about poverty is so difficult to do? Because we keep getting to the question, “Well, but what can we really do?”

One of the many themes emerging from Blog Action Day and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty was requests and suggestions for things that can be done now. Suggestions were things like, “Buy a homeless person some food,” “Don’t go out to dinner for a week and give the savings to a family in need,” and many other interesting and thoughtful suggestions dealing with individuals in poverty and social and government systems that perpetuate poverty.

Here’s another example of what we can do to help those in poverty:

Du Page County is holding its fifth annual Sleep Out Saturday this Saturday, November 1st. An estimated 1,500 adults and teens will spend this Saturday night sleeping in tents, cardboard boxes and in their cars, in front yards, parking lots, parks to raise awareness of homelessness in Du Page County and to raise funds for Bridge Communities, an organization that provides shelters for homeless families in Du Page County.

Last year the event raised more than $110,000 for services directed to homeless families in Du Page County. This year event organizers are hoping to raise $135,000, 80% of which will go directly to services for families that are either currently homeless or one paycheck away from the streets.

Call 630-545-0610 for more information, AND HEY! Why not have “How do I go about setting something like this up for my community?” be part of that “more information?

Donations can be made at www.sleepoutsaturday.org.

Written by archive

October 22nd, 2008 at 6:46 pm

From Southern Africa to Southern Illinois, poverty needs to be stopped

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A community organizer in Southern Illinois recently spoke to me about the people they work for living in homes with dirt floors, with no running water, no sewer systems. Living in clothes handed down from others- family or strangers. They tell me there are no jobs. They tell me of children not going to school because it isn’t safe.

They said to me, “You’ve never seen poverty like this.”

Yes, I have.

The people I lived and worked with in rural sub-Saharan Africa lived in that kind of poverty.

They would say things to me like, “You don’t have places like this in America.”

I would tell them about Skid Row in Los Angeles. I would tell them about poor families and homeless people.

They couldn’t believe we have homeless people. They couldn’t believe that we have poverty.

“Even here, everyone has a home,” they would say with sad amazement.

I would tell them about the homeless people I worked with before who said to me, “Man, when you get back you won’t have any sympathy for us.”

And here were these villagers in Swaziland showing sincere sympathy for the plight of the American poor.

We would talk about soup kitchens in the United States and food distribution points in Swaziland.

We would talk about working families who couldn’t afford food for their children, or utilities, or rent. We would talk about people trading sex for food or shelter or money.

We would talk about people dying from the symptoms of poverty.

We would talk about people struggling.

And we would talk about people showing the most incredible strength in support of each other.

We would talk about people taking each other in. We would talk about people giving clothes or food or blankets. Or love.

We would talk of parents and older siblings going without so that children get to eat.

We would talk of people in poverty showing intense love and appreciation for their families and friends.

We would talk about the incredible frailty and the incredible resiliency of people.

We would talk about how these things happen in both of our countries.

And if you think that this is a comparison of poverty in the United States and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa then you are missing the point.

Fighting poverty isn’t about comparisons. It isn’t about one group or one person with less than or more than others. Fighting poverty is about people looking out for each other. It is about our responsibility to each other.

Fighting poverty is about human rights, which are an absolute standard. Fighting poverty is about respecting and protecting each other. It is about ensuring that the human rights of all people are fulfilled.

I have this dream every once in a while.

Two people from different parts of the world.

Both have known struggle their entire lives. Both have known poverty and hunger and pain. Both have known what it feels like to be ignored.

They come together and see themselves in each other.

And they tell me that it all needs to stop.

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Extreme Poverty. It is a day when we all need to look at ourselves and our countries and remember that we have not only the ability and resources AND THE RESPONSIBILITY to eliminate extreme poverty and the physical, emotional, and psychological pain that comes with it.

The United Nations has laid out the Millennium Development Goals as guides and measurements for the global eradication of poverty. The Issues the Millennium Development Goals were designed to address are the same issues that we are dealing with in Illinois. It is easy to read over the Millennium Development Goals and think that they are only the concerns of third-world countries, but if we think about what the goals mean rather than the specific language and then look at the realities of Illinois it becomes impossible to ignore that the Millennium Development Goals are for us, too. These are just some of the goals:

  • Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day.

The definition of extreme poverty for developing countries is living on less than $1 a day. In the United States and other developed countries that definition changes. The official definition of extreme poverty in the United States is less than 50% of the Federal Poverty Line and using this definition there are almost 700,000 Illinoisans living in extreme poverty.

But lets leave that aside for the moment and understand the real definition of extreme poverty: can’t afford food, can’t afford adequate housing, can’t afford warm clothing, can’t afford health care, struggling to get by.

That is the important definition. And by this definition the number of people living in extreme poverty is even higher than 700,000.

  • Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.

Unemployment is on the rise in Illinois. The number of working poor families in Illinois is on the rise. Women are still paid less than men for comparable work, have lower lifetime earnings, and have higher poverty rates. “If women were paid the same as comparable men, even if only for the hours women currently work, a recent study shows that poverty rates would fall by half for both single mothers and married women”- 2008 Illinois Poverty Report.

  • Reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

The number of people accessing food pantries has increased across the state. Food banks are running out of food to give out. Food prices are increasing. Hunger is getting worse all over the state.

  • Ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling

Think about the inequality between schools in Illinois. Think about the children who don’t go to school because it isn’t safe. Think about the children who don’t go to school because they have to work to support their families.

  • Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

If you think that this isn’t something that we need to be concerned about in Illinois then talk to some of the people living in southern Illinois. Talk to some of the people in housing projects. This is something that we need to be concerned about.

  • Achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

Homeless people. Run down housing projects. Concentrated poverty in the cities and the suburbs and towns.

The Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty takes these international goals and applies them to the Illinois poverty situation by addressing:

  • Access to safe, decent and affordable housing.
  • Access to adequate food and nutrition.
  • Access to affordable and quality health care.
  • Equal access to quality education and training.
  • Dependable and affordable transportation.
  • Access to quality and affordable child care.
  • Opportunities to engage in meaningful and sustainable work that pays a living wage.
  • The availability of adequate income supports.

Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Extreme Poverty and “international” does not mean “everywhere other than here”. It means “everywhere including here”. It means “everyone including us”.

To eliminate poverty in Illinois we will need more than a commission and policies and funding and legislation. It will also need compassion and respect and will.

Extreme poverty exists in Illinois and the Illinois Commission on the Elimination of Poverty is part of the solution.

And so are you. And so am I.

Written by archive

October 17th, 2008 at 6:14 pm