Poverty: Stop rhetoric, find solutions

By Beverly Kincaid

Today, I paused to think about all of the events leading up to the presidential elections, including the national political conventions. Did you notice how speakers from both parties spoke of growing up in poverty or having experienced their parents’ trials and tribulations of being poor? It was almost like the best credential any of the convention speakers could have was that they somehow were connected to poverty themselves.

I would have expected, after hearing all the rags-to-riches stories, that poverty would have been a topic for discussion in the debates, or in the political discourse related to state and local elections.

As I look at the widening income-equality gap and lack of economic mobility for many Americans, it becomes abundantly clear that all that babbling at the conventions does not translate to life-changing prosperity for the 46 million Americans currently living in poverty.

In a recent report, “The State of Homelessness in America,” the National Alliance to End Homelessness analyzes the effect of the recession on the homeless population. Homelessness in Washington declined by 10 percent between 2009 and 2011. The report concludes that the decline in homelessness is due to a one-time, $1.5 billion federal investment in homeless assistance.

The report also reminds us that the recession’s impact on unemployment, severe housing cost burden, and other factors has placed increasing numbers of people in Washington and across the nation at risk of becoming homeless in the coming years.

Each day, it seems another indicator appears that illustrates more of our citizens locally and across the country no longer have roofs over their heads, are experiencing extreme food insecurity, and are in need of behavioral health services, both for addictions (as they resort to alcohol and drugs to mask their lives which are spinning out of control) and for mental health care for those who have reached the breaking point.

People living in poverty and/or homelessness face a range of barriers, including the perception by others that they are to be blamed for their poverty or homelessness and are not worth helping. They are stigmatized, often losing their own sense of self-worth or purpose.

As the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” continues to widen, and the “have-nots” are finding it increasingly difficult to rise from the bottom of the economic ladder, we must coalesce as members of the Kitsap community to help our neighbors who are in need of a hand up.

With political will, innovative, evidence-based solutions and a community working together, we truly can end homelessness here, so that no man, woman or child is without a place to call home.

— Beverly Kincaid is the principal of Sound Grants in Bremerton.


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