Broad Shoulders Update

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Archive for the ‘hunger’ tag

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

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

Poverty elimination needs to include asset building

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Written by Chris Giangreco, Policy Coordinator for Heartland Alliance's Policy and Advocacy Division- Illinois Asset Building Group

Poverty elimination requires specific, measurable plans and policies.
The thought of creating asset-building opportunities for families and individuals living in extreme poverty might sound ridiculous to many people. Build assets? How can someone save money or protect their assets when they don’t have enough money to pay for their immediate needs? What good is saving for the future when you can’t get by today?

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking forces individuals living in extreme poverty to continue struggling to get by day after day. Without asset-building programs and policies geared toward individuals living in extreme poverty, many people are denied the economic rights to access the necessary tools and resources to create a better future. Helping individuals and families in extreme poverty build assets might not make them wealthy, but it gives them a sense of hope for the future and supports them as they strive to get ahead.

Programs and policies that promote asset building for those living in poverty follow three basic categories for understanding human rights: protect, respect, and fulfill. Regulations to eliminate predatory lending and usury, such as high-interest payday loans, help protect individual’s assets at times when then need access to capital for temporary emergencies. These regulations, in other words, protect individual’s economic rights. Programs providing lowt-s-cost, mainstream financial services for those living in poverty respect individuals’ economic constraints. Financial services like prepaid debit cards, small dollar loans, low-cost check cashing, and no-fee, small dollar savings accounts help respect the financial needs of individuals and families living in poverty. These kinds of services allow families living in poverty to participate in mainstream financial services, which are more affordable than alternative services like retail check cashers. In addition, providing access to mainstream financial services and creating matched savings or incentive payments into checking or savings accounts help fulfill the economic rights of those living in poverty by supporting them as they build assets and create a positive vision for their future.

It is important not to dismiss asset building when discussing individuals and families living in extreme poverty. Asset building programs and policies tailored for individuals and families living in extreme poverty can help them live more securely today, weather financial situations, and build for a better future, By integrating asset building plans and policies into the larger framework of poverty elimination, Illinois moves closer to guaranteeing human rights for all its residents.

For more information about the Illinois Asset Building Group, please go to www.illinoisassetbuilding.org .

Written by archive

October 15th, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Fourth Generation Poverty

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Written by Teri McKean, MSW, LSW with ABC Counseling and Family Services in Champaign, Illinois.

Teri is a wife and mother of two girls. She formerly worked in Carterville, IL as a case manager but after completing her MSW at the University of Illinois at Chicago in May 2008, Teri and her family moved to Champaign, IL where she is a sexual abuse counselor for children.

I walked into their trailer and am appalled. I didn’t expect expensive furnishings or beautiful artwork, but what I find is filth. No, not filth, just the result of years of hand-me-downs, throw-outs, leftovers and junk. This family is third generation poor. They rent this trailer for $100 a month. The couch was found at the end of someone’s driveway and their kitchen table is missing a leg. Old newspapers act as insulation in the windows. The mother excuses the trailer, stating “I just don’t know where to start anymore.” It’s only her and her daughter, but they have a staggering amount of stuff. Her daughter has told me that mother is too anxious to get rid of anything. “If we throw out something, we might need it in a month for cash.” Everything is viewed as a possible way to make a few extra bucks. Mother struggles to make ends meet with her disability check and food stamps. They don’t have enough to keep insurance on their car, much less gas to get the 2 miles to town and back, so they take back roads and hope the car stays together so they can get groceries. Mother and daughter often miss counseling, case management and doctor appointments because they just can’t get there.

When asked if there are family members to help, Mother remarks, “They are just as poor as we are, just in California, not Illinois.” She mentions the father of her daughter, but admits she is too proud to go to him. He sent a few letters over the years, but he was violent and abusive; she’d rather not let him back into their lives. He could afford to help, and by rights, should pay child support, but it’s just too much trouble.

The daughter is barely making it to school three times a week, and has recently indulged in pot for the first time. She’s 13. Already, she has decided her fate is to be poor, so she has given up. Why continue her education to work at the local fast food restaurant and maybe make enough to pay for her gas back and forth? She has remarked on numerous occasions, “I’ll just get a check and some food stamps too, as soon as I have a kid.”

Where did the system fail them? Why is the third and now fourth generation of this family so accepting of their poverty? I saw families like this all over southern Illinois from Cairo to Carterville to Chester. I saw them in Chicago and I see them now in Champaign. Poverty does not affect one area of the state, it is widespread and their stories, while unique, are so similar. The common theme is the disenfranchisement and the lack of involvement that people in poverty have with the system that should help them. Asking the mother above to suggest changes to the food stamp program would make her laugh. She would not believe anyone in government or public policy would care. We need to find a way to care and to prove to those people receiving services that we do. Nothing will get better until that occurs.

Teri McKean, MSW, LSW

Champaign, IL