EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Poverty surrounds you; how will you respond?

2013-11-24T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Poverty surrounds you; how will you respond?By Terry McCullough nwitimes.com
November 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Today is the last day of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (Nov. 18-24). But we all know both hunger and homelessness will continue to confront us day after day after day. It's not going away just because the week dedicated to awareness has ended.

As the Good Book says, the poor will always be with us.

If you haven’t noticed or heard, poverty is growing in this country. Some of the rich are becoming a little less rich; all of the poor are getting poorer; and a new group who were middle class before are suddenly finding themselves living in poverty.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 15.9 million American children younger than 18 live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.

According to National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, about 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year. Many will be forced to take refuge in cars, abandoned buildings and parks.

My daily work involves searching for resources within my community to address food and housing emergencies. Our days are filled with assisting households with utility shut-offs, evictions, empty cupboards and refrigerators, and parents expressing fear that their children will not have a joyous Thanksgiving or Christmas.

We receive so many calls from lonely, isolated, shut-ins and individuals who are so depressed and lonely and disconnected from their families. Soup kitchens and free holiday meal events are usually packed with people who might or might not actually be hungry. But that does not necessarily mean they are not starving for something.

Mother Teresa once said, "We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty."

Does anybody remember the collective and cooperative living movements of the 1960s? That was to be the wave of the future. The idea was simple — groups of individuals and families would combine their resources, talents and skills for the benefit, survival and safety of their group. It is a concept that has proved to be an effective way to reduce living costs. It would be great to see that movement emerge again as a way to tackle poverty.

Incidentally, today is also the beginning of National Family week (Nov. 24–30). It is a time during the Thanksgiving season when organizations such as The Alliance for Children and Families encourage families of all kinds to build community connections and honor those who strengthen families.

This holiday season, let us remember that many times we need to revisit our past to discover how to tackle the future. 'Tis the season of sharing.

Terry McCullough is program manager for the Thornton Township Youth Committee. The opinions are the writer's.

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