Sunday, January 31, 2010

Where are the poor?

Where are the poor? Most people would immediately respond "in the city, of course". And yes, when I walk through downtown Portland, I do see quite a few people whom I would label as "poor". On the other hand, when I walk through my neighborhood, or many of the nearby neighborhoods, I just see kids playing, empty front yards, cars in the driveway -- no panhandlers.

But research now indicates that there are more poor in America's suburbs than in the city. Yes, you heard right. Between 2000 and 2008 the suburbs in large metro areas saw the ranks of the poor grow 5x faster than in the city. In 2008, there were nearly 12.5 million poor in the suburbs, compared to 10.9 million in the nation's primary cities.

See the full report here. (PDF). Rob Pitingolo has a nice write-up on this topic at his blog Extraordinary Measures.

This seems to me a "myth buster". When it comes to poverty, what we assume may just not be true. Maybe time for me to open my eyes?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rethinking Poverty Presentation

I recently had opportunity to pull together a short 15 minute presentation on Rethinking Poverty. To see the talking notes, you can download the actual PowerPoint presentation from SlideShare.

Friday, January 29, 2010

On Being Challenged by Poverty

I’ve been on a personal odyssey of sorts these past few months to better understand poverty and our responses and responsibilities towards it. I don't quite know why, but I do know that poverty is a subject near and dear to God's heart, and so I guess it is a good thing that it is growing near and dear to my heart as well.

I have been involved in helping alleviate poverty in very small ways: through volunteering at a homeless shelter in Hillsboro, Oregon as well as serving food to homeless youth in downtown Portland. And of course my wife and I have also written checks to various charities, as I’m sure most of you have.But I’ve found myself asking questions like these, and maybe you have as well:

“Is my money doing any good?”
“Why are these people homeless?”
“Am I truly helping when I volunteer?"
"Why do I see the same people in line for hand outs over and over again?”
“What is the best way to spend my time and money to help alleviate poverty?”

And maybe the most convicting question for me:

“Do I really care about these people, or am I just helping out to make myself feel better and more fulfilled?”

Who are the poor? One thing I've discovered, is that I am poor in many, many ways. And yet, I am also rich beyond measure.

Where will this journey of being challenged by poverty lead?