A few straightforward suggestions to fight poverty

“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.”

The above quote comes from the Pulitzer Prize winning book “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond. Its subtitle is also telling – “Poverty and Profit in the American City.” The dilemma is we have a poverty problem that stretches from urban to rural America. Yet, it manifests itself daily in the eviction courts of American cities and towns, whether it is from apartments, houses or mobile homes.

The book speaks of how fragile the rental community is regardless of race, yet the black community tends to have a higher rate of exposure to evictions in urban areas. Unexpected expenses, transportation problems, and tragedies can push people paying a very high portion of their rent over the edge and out the door. Ideally, 30% of family income should be toward housing and utilities. Too many of these folks are paying well above that percentage.

It should be noted that there are other drivers of fragility. Some have opioid and other dependencies. Some are fragile due to too many children that stretch the budgets of even the best planners. Some are in downward spirals with unsupportive landlords. And, many of those unexpected expenses that arise are healthcare related.

What are some suggestions to remedy these issues? Based on my experience as a volunteer Board member helping working homeless families and my reading, I would like to throw out some ideas for consideration.

First, we need to talk more about it. America has a huge disparity in distribution of wealth which is not talked about enough by leaders. Where and to whom one is born are greater predictors of success as the American Dream  has waned for too many.

Second, we need to fund more family planning efforts not less. There is a high correlation between poverty and large families. When family planning is funded and birth control access and education are increased, poverty declines, system health care costs decline and abortions decline.

Third, more mechanisms to reduce evictions need to be in place and funded. Crisis assistance funds show success in helping keeping the electricity on and, when funded, reducing the number of evictions. Stopping homelessness (or fragility) before it starts can make a huge difference and will have a positive echo effect.

Fourth, we must invest in impoverished  areas making them more suitable for families both with opportunity and resources. In their absence, crime and other poor influences fill the void.

Fifth, while I have concerns about the new Tax law with its impact on debt and heavy emphasis on the wealthy and corporations, a huge opportunity was missed when we could have added an increase in the minimum wage tying it to automatic increases due to wage inflation. I worry that less money than expected by the law’s drafters will end up in the hands of workers.

Sixth, we must address our opioid crisis in America. To be frank, cutting access to healthcare and mental care insurance benefits are not the answer. We must stabilize access and cost of healthcare, yet opposite measures have been taken in the past few years under the guise of political gain.

There are many more ideas, but these will help. On the investing front, many locations have seen success with using historical tax credits leveraging private money. There is a concept called ABCD (Asser Based Community Development) which shores up or repurposes an deteriorated asset creating jobs.

But, first we need to talk about this real and pervasive problem.




6 thoughts on “A few straightforward suggestions to fight poverty

  1. People who think that government involvement will not help are wrong. I’m not longer homeless because of government programs.

    My help, however was defined through mental and behavioral health programs which my city and county fund. We have a tax levy for it. It helps A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE.

    It makes a difference but it’s not making all of it disappear. A homeless man froze to death here a few days ago. Probably related to heroin. We need to focus on the prevention and recovery of people trapped in that problem. It doesn’t look like the GOP’s plan for it includes much in either of those paths.

    • To support your comment, Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandlebaum wrote a book called “That Used to be Us: How America fell behind in the World it created and how it can come back.” Much of America’s success is built on a combined public/ private investment in infrastructure, defense and public works. If left alone to private industry, we would fail to achieve things. Here is an easy example – shareholders want a ROI in business spend. If something big is needed that will not return a profit to the shareholders, it just won’t get done. Today, we have a major concern over developing anti-bacterial sera as diseases learn to fight the old ones. Pharma companies want to invent recurring illnesses and a drugs you must take for the rest of your life. That is how they make money, not curing people. To develop the new anti-bacterial strain costs a lot of money and failures occur. So, there must be a private/ public partnership or it won’t get done.

      • I quite agree. In fact the very successful program that I was in was just that sort of thing. A private company owned a bunch of buildings that they rent exclusively to people with mental health issues. They specialize in making sure you get the best support option for your rent and work with the local social services to get renters. What is amazing about it is that they UNDERSTAND who they are renting to. They are very involved in keeping your healthy and inside the system. It’s in their best interest.

  2. Dear Keith,
    All your ideas are outstanding. I would like to see more affordable housing being built and rental assistance for those in these affordable rental properties to receive rental assistance so that working peoples are not paying more than 30% of their income for rent.
    I would have a program to teach children how to be self sufficient as possible at the earliest ages possible. I have noticed that children who are blessed with this gift are more confident and less limited by their environments.
    I would like to see Medicaid expansion in all states.

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