Last week, Alliance president and CEO Nan Roman attended the first National Poverty Summit in Fort Worth, Texas hosted by Catholic Charities USA. The conference hosted leaders from 10 leading national human service organizations, including Save the Children, the Alliance, and Bread for the World, who engaged in a discussion about pragmatic, strategic, and compassionate ways to reduce poverty.
Since the Census released their report last week, there have been a number of news stories about the increasing number of people struggling to keep themselves clothed, fed, and housed. Only this morning, the New York Times reported that one in five New York City residents live in poverty; the Baltimore Sun said the number is one in four in their city. The Associated Press singled out the young adult population – who face a stagnant job market and the burden of school debt – as a group with a higher risk of poverty.
It goes without saying that there exists a relationship between homelessness and poverty (specifically deep poverty). Most people who experience homelessness were very, very poor before they were lost their housing. As such, programs that alleviate poverty also keep people and families from falling into homelessness.
But such programs are being threatened. With deficit reduction fervor racing through Washington (and much of the country), even effective, efficient government programs that help people move out of poverty and homelessness are at risk of being axed. And there is a flurry of other news articles – from Missouri to Arizona to Illinois – that have documented the potential human cost of denying these critical services to people who need them most.
While austerity is an important virtue, it cannot be achieved by punishing those who are already going without. As Nan Roman remarked at the National Poverty Summit, “We do have a deficit, but we can’t reduce the budget on the backs of vulnerable people. It’s a false savings when we allow so many more people to become homeless and stay poor.”