Ending Poverty And Promoting Economic Prosperity

There is no greater challenge for our country — and the Triad area — than breaking the cycle of multi-generational poverty that has a relentless grip on millions of Americans. One in eight adults live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census bureau. Childhood poverty is especially pernicious. Statistics show that 14 percent of all children in the U.S. were living in poverty in 2019, a number that jumps to 26 percent for Black children. And we know that children born into poverty are significantly more likely to remain poor as adults, which only perpetuates the endless cycle.

In the more than 50 years since the war on poverty was launched, our nation has focused on treating the outcomes of poverty rather than searched for ways to solve the root causes. In other words, we create programs that provide food, clothing, healthcare and shelter, but we don’t invest enough time and money on helping people break the cycle of poverty. While the efforts are well-intentioned, they’re insufficient.   

Finding Common Ground supports initiatives that help people find a pathway out of poverty and start a cycle of economic prosperity for themselves and their families.

We support programs that address chronic unemployment and encourage self-sufficiency. People hold the keys to their own success. My friend, the Rev. Odell Cleveland, realized this when he co-founded the Welfare Reform Liaison Project in Greensboro just after passage of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. The nonprofit focuses on workforce development and training, which empowers people to find the jobs they need to move off of government assistance. The program holds people to a higher standard and convinces them that they’re capable of achieving great things. As Odell once described the agency: “We recycle lives by providing jobs skills and by giving the people we serve one of the most important things they want in life: dignity.”

We support programs that address addiction and promote recovery. Addiction doesn’t just hurt the addict; it has reverberations for their children, their communities and the whole of society. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported a 20 percent jump statewide in the number of children in the foster care system between 2014 and 2019. Much of that, the DHHS says, is attributable in the opioid addiction crisis. We must invest in programs that support people in recovery with something more than a 10-day detox, a 30-day half-way house and the inevitable relapse. People recovering from addiction — and their families as well — need long-term solutions that incentivize them to remain sober.

We support programs that help people reduce personal debt. The impact of consumer debt — high-interest credit cards, car payments and student loans — on poverty is undeniable. According to one study, low-income families spend as much as 40 percent of their income each month paying off their debts. It’s impossible to build wealth at that rate. In 2019, Americans owed a whopping $14 trillion in consumer debt, and that was before COVID-19 wrecked the economy. How do we stop this vicious cycle? Financial education programs have proven successfulin reducing consumer debt. There’s also research showing that reducing debt has tremendous psychological benefits through eliminating the source of so much stress. But most importantly, reducing debut frees up significant chunks of money for people to spend on food, mortgages and utilities — instead of interest.

Other ways Finding Common Ground seeks to promote economic prosperity:

  • Reduce recidivism rates. We must invest in programs that prepare prisoners for life after release by providing educational opportunities, job training and financial education while they’re incarcerated. Such programs will reduce the likelihood of re-entering the criminal justice system.

  • Support single-parent households. Across the country, nonprofits are creating ways to help women who are experiencing homelessness support their families. — including those that make their own products, providing their clients employment and shelter.

Finding Common Ground

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to ending poverty and promoting economic prosperity. The answer rests with all of us: politicians, educators, business leaders, nonprofits, the faith community and more. But it begins with a belief that everyone deserves an equal chance at success in life, no matter where they began.

We want to provide a hand up not a hand out.