Philadelphia (our home town) consistently ranks as one of the poorest of the major cities in the United States with a poverty rate of around 25%. Everyone in our nation should have enough to eat and a place to call home. Families who live in poverty need decent affordable housing, access to nutritious food, opportunities for quality education, medical care and lots of support to change their future.
The Poor People’s Army which grew out of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign founded by Cheri Honkala has been organizing on the front lines to identify and address the root causes of poverty. The group has worked nationally and internationally for over 30 years, supporting and lifting up the leadership of poor people with lived experience in homelessness and poverty. Check out their website here: PoorPeoplesArmy.com.
A Deeper Look:
Poverty and illiteracy are inextricably bound and basic literacy continues to be a serious problem in the U.S. Education is a path out of poverty. People who cannot read, write or do basic math struggle to gain employment. At least 14% of us in this country do not read at even a very basic level, which means that many of us cannot fill out a job application, or get a driver’s license. About 40% do not graduate High School. Too often, our children (and they are all our children) don’t have the resources they need to thrive in our underfunded, struggling educational system. When one family member achieves literacy, the entire family and, sometimes even the neighborhood, benefits.
FOOD INSECURITY is most troubling in areas of extreme poverty, but it exists in every zip code. There are people in your neighborhood, wherever you live, who don’t have the basic necessities many of us take for granted. Food banks in many communities try to fill in the gaps for families in need.
Steps We Can Take:
Get involved! Donate or volunteer with one of the following organizations working on these issues.
EMPOWER YOUTH and PROMOTE EDUCATION:
ATTRACT (A Team Taking Responsive Actions with Conscious Thought) focuses on educating and empowering youth by providing mentorship and advocacy to youth in the Philly area. in Philadelphia. By creating programs designed to motivate and inspire them, ATTRACT works to make a lasting impact on young people’s lives. Listen to our conversation with founder, Tierra Jones: Less Funerals, More Graduations
Mighty Writers offers numerous programs that teach children to write effectively, throughout the Philadelphia region. We spoke with program director Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. Listen in: Causes They Care About. Jamilah also had her first book published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in April 2018. Check out Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, with illustrations by Ebony Glenn.
The CLC (Community Learning Center) strives “to help low-income adults in Philadelphia gain academic and employment skills so that they can realize their fullest potential at home and in the workforce.” Listen to our conversation with Jean Fleschute, its founder: Let’s Write Some Letters
SUPPORT WORKERS and WORKERS’ RIGHTS
PA Domestic Workers Alliance is a joint project of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Philadelphia Jobs with Justice. The Alliance supports workers such as nannies, house cleaners, and caregivers who perform critical tasks so that others can go to work, meet all the demands of their busy lives and still make sure their kids, parents or other loved ones are taken care of and the house is in good shape. Poor treatment, low pay, no benefits and lack of visibility have been built into the laws and labor standards pertaining to domestic workers- the majority of whom are low wage, black and immigrant women. This is a worker-led movement, guided by a committee of multiracial, multilingual domestic workers from across the Philadelphia area. Listen in to the session in which we chat with Nicole Kligerman, Director of the Pennsylvania Domestic Worker’s Alliance (PDWA): Invisibilized Labor
The rights of sex workers are crucial to consider in the fight for gender equity and labor justice. Sex work reflects an obvious imbalance of power and equality that also exists in every industry. Sex work is work. Work is labor. Sex work is different from human trafficking, which is an international business founded on violence. Humans are not meant to be bought and sold by others.
The Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation ( Cseinstitute.org) is run out of Villanova University in PA and provides legal services to victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. We spoke with Sarah Robinson, Esq., the Institute’s inaugural Justice for Victims Fellow, to learn about providing trauma-informed legal advocacy to victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation: Love You Honey
ASSIST PEOPLE TRANSITIONING TO EMPLOYMENT:
The Monkey & The Elephant Cafe: Our kids in foster care should not have to go through more trauma and failure as they grow into young adulthood. Once they age-out of youth services many young adults may not have a place to live or a way to support themselves. One in four are incarcerated within the first 2 years of aging out of the system, and one in three will live below the poverty line; 40% experience homelessness. The M&E cafe is Philadelphia’s only non-profit coffee shop employing former foster youth and is dedicated to supporting the transition from foster care to independence. We spoke to Meghan Ryan, program coordinator at The Monkey and the Elephant Cafe and you can listen here: A Growth Mindset
Career Wardrobe: “Imagine a place where anyone can get the confidence they need for the next steps in their life.” What do clothes have to do with it? According to the career Wardrobe website, you have seven seconds to make a positive first impression. Not only is your appearance important, but the way you dress affects the way you feel and the confidence you exude. Career Wardrobe contributes to equal employment opportunities for those in the trans and LGB communities as well as those in recovery, re-entry from incarceration, women, and youth. Career Wardrobe uses clothing and professional development to inspire change and empower unemployed people in their transition to work. We chatted with Career Wardrobe Program Director, Al Sharrock and you can hear our conversation right here: Career Wardrobe
CREATE AFFORDABLE HOUSING
We can all agree there’s No Place Like a Home. And did you know that 1/4 of women who are homeless are homeless because of violence committed against her?! Since the housing crisis of 2008, property foreclosures remain epidemic. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty is the only national legal advocacy group dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness. They are based in Washington, DC but operate programs across the United States serving more than 3.5 million individuals, families, and children. Our guest, Brandy Ryan, is a staff attorney at the Center who focuses her current work on homeless youth and education.
ACHIEVEability, located in Philadelphia, “permanently breaks the generational cycle of poverty for low income, single parent, and homeless families through higher education, affordable housing, supportive services, community and economic development, and accountability.” We spoke with Jamila Harris-Morrison and Harold Barrow about the impressive organization they work for in this episode: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
NO NEED FOR FOOD INSECURITY:
The North Philly Peace Park does many important things for the surrounding community including using the space for organic and sustainable urban farming along with education. They offer free programs in health and wellness, and free produce to the community- supported by their own community garden and donations. We met with a passionate team of 3 volunteers – Bird, Nyasha Felder, and Li Sumpter – each with a different role in advocating for the community and building the Peace Park.
Mitzvah Pantry: “With broad-based support from the region’s Jewish community and hunger relief agencies, the Mitzvah Food Program, which initially distributed food through a single community site, has expanded its geographic reach throughout Philadelphia and into the region’s lower-income suburban neighborhoods.” We spoke with Deirdre Mulligan, Executive Director, of the Mitzvah Food Pantry and Sandi Young, a volunteer, about food insecurity. The program serves over 7400 people each year by distributing nutritious food to all who are in need regardless of race, income, gender, age or religion. Listen in: There is No Need for This
We all agree, there’s No Place Like a Home. Brandy Ryan, a staff attorney at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty in Washington, D.C. focuses her work on homeless youth and education. This Center is the only one dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness in our nation. Though it is based in D.C., it operates program across the United States serving more than 3.5 million homeless individuals, families, and children.
Aaron Jacobs worked for Americorps in Alabama for one year after graduating from college. AmeriCorps is a network of national programs offering a variety of service opportunities with the goal of improving lives and fostering civic engagement. Participants work on critical community needs such as fighting poverty, sustaining our national parks, or helping to prepare for disasters. Aaron shared his experiences screening young children for eye health, mentoring youth, and offering free tax preparation for people in need. Listen in: I was Imagining Something Worse
The Gig Economy has been expanding quickly and can be another form of worker oppression. While it creates many new part-time jobs that can help people trying to make ends meet, gig workers do so without the benefits of sick pay, time off, health coverage, or job security. This is true whether workers drive for a car service, deliver groceries, provide care, or do itinerant farm work. Gig workers cannot unionize and don’t have the same legal protections against workplace harassment that regular workers do. Frequently, they work for minimum wage or less and can be vulnerable to being taken advantage of by the fees and expenses built into the work they do. We chatted about the benefits and drawbacks of the gig economy with musician and podcaster, Hal Aaron. Listen in: Are They Gonna Puke in my Car?