Ending Poverty Takes More Than Charity

Ending Poverty Takes More Than Charity

Rev. Horace Sanders and Rev. Dustin Wright

The following appears as a guest column in the November 22nd Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY. Read the full column here.

This is the time of year that, as many of us gather close with family and loved ones, we consider the ways we can help those among us who are struggling.

We make donations to local charities, we volunteer, and we serve meals at soup kitchens.

These efforts to serve our neighbors and communities are admirable, to be sure, and they often provide an essential lifeline.

However, if we truly desire to end poverty in our communities, we must recognize that these acts of charity are not enough — and cannot be enough.

By recognizing that poverty is a web of systems and structures that marginalizes and disempowers whole groups of people, we can begin to imagine changes to those systems and structures that might end the scourge of poverty.

Our legislative process and our advocacy campaigns are often siloed to individual issues — the affordable housing campaign, the anti-hunger bill, the public education rally, the healthcare reforms.

Commissioners at the Capital Region Truth Commission on Poverty, July 13, 2017

Commissioners at the Capital Region Truth Commission on Poverty, July 13, 2017

But for people in poverty, these issues are deeply connected.

Poor families are making decisions every day between food and housing, transportation and that doctor’s appointment that keeps getting put off, and taking a second job to pay the bills or staying home to care for the kids.

For many people, these issues are not distinct.

By listening to the stories of the people who are most directly affected by systems of poverty, we can begin to conceive of the scope of the changes necessary.

They are the experts on poverty because they live it daily.

That’s why back in July, we gathered with 150 people from the Capital District for a Truth Commission on Poverty, hearing testimony from people on the front lines of these crises.

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Rev. Horace Sanders, Jr. is the pastor at Mt Olivet Missionary Baptist Church and a commissioner with the Capital Region Truth Commission.

Rev. Dustin Wright is the pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church, and President of the New York State Council of Churches.

The report of the Truth Commission on Poverty in New York State is online at nytruthcommission.org. To learn more about the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, visit poorpeoplescampaign.org. Click here to take the pledge to be part of the campaign here in New York.