couple things

A couple things I read about during Christmas break and never got around to posting:

The Global Richlist offers a shift in perspective – enter your annual pay, find out just how ‘poor’ you aren’t… ‘poor’ college students and ‘starving’ artists might be surprised to find out they’re actually in the richest 15% of the entire planet’s population (it only takes a yearly income of $2,500!).

Of course (and this is something of which I know little, and would like to learn much more), some context is missing; no one could feed, clothe and shelter themselves on $2,500 a year in an American city, and this is one reason poverty lines are drawn differently in different places (though – as I’m writing this, I can recall a member of The Simple Way saying he and the others in their community each lived on about $150 a month… not sure whether housing was paid for, etc.). It costs a lot less to meet one’s needs in some places than it does in others, though it seems this often comes with a different concept of ‘needs’ versus ‘wants’, as well… at any rate, if what The Global Richlist offers is accurate (actually, even if it’s wildly inaccurate), there is an incredible imbalance in the simple distribution of money among the world’s population. This is nothing new; anyone can observe this on a smaller level in his or her community (percentages and other statistics are often used as blunt tools for beating into one’s audience an opinion or agenda, and I don’t like being on either end of such a beating, but it seems that when it comes to issues of poverty one often can observe these statistics’ being played out without traveling more than a few blocks).

So Others Might Eat

I finally finished David Shipler’s book ‘The Working Poor’, and he praises SOME’s holistic approach to aiding the impoverished in Washington, DC – here is a short history of the various programs implemented at SOME over the years:

In 1970 the Reverend Horace McKenna, a Catholic priest, began to feed the homeless out of a dining room on North Capital Street, and the organization So Others Might Eat was conceived. As each layer of problems was uncovered, SOME added a layer of programs. Many of those being fed were drug addicts, so in 1975 a treatment program was added. Even after treatment, many still found it hard to get decent housing and move into a productive life, so in 1988 a halfway house was created where recovering addicts could live for ninety days in a structured setting while they looked for work and garnered support from staff and peers. Housing remained a problem so the following year a single-room-occupancy building was added for the formerly homeless. Many addicts had trouble kicking the habit in the vicinity of their old temptations, and in 1991, SOME intensified drug treatment by creating a ninety-day program on a forty-five-acre retreat, Exodus House, in West Virginia. Most still lacked the skills to enter the job market, so in 1998 SOME turned an unused Catholic school into the Center for Employment Training, with courses in office skills, building maintenance, and nursing. Trainees were also taught how to write resumes, how to perform in interviews, and how to speak before groups of co-workers.

This approach has led to much more visible results than the multitude of well-intentioned programs that suffer from short-sighted planning or a lack of stable funding; Shipler goes on to write:

Xerox was hiring to fill its contracts to run mail rooms, do photocopying, and print color reports for firms in Washington, and trainees from SOME’s center looked attractive. “The interview was very calming. It was very comfortable,” Leary said in surprise. “I talked so strongly about team playing and about being excited with the opportunity that the company could offer, because I’d researched and saw how they were involved in the community and how they had did this and that.” The interviewer seemed impressed. “She said the difference between us and the other training programs out here was like night and day because people were coming there from these programs only interested in the hours, ‘What is the pay?’… I never questioned her as to what none of that was at any time. So that let her know that my first interest is becoming a member of Xerox. And whatever Xerox had to offer me I would be gratefully inclined to go with because I knew about the company.”

More information at…


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