Some families in our communities don’t know if they will have a meal today. Others will be unable to retain adequate housing. Still, others will experience crushing financial pressures with insufficient income to meet them. For these and so many other reasons, poverty is a troubling social problem—a problem that touches every state in our country and every county in our state. As a social work researcher, poverty is among the central focuses of my work. As a human being, poverty is among the central focuses of my conscience.
To the extent poverty is troubling, a community’s response to it can be inspiring. Turning to Guilford County, the United Way of Greater Greensboro has partnered with Guilford Child Development and other community organizations to launch the Family Success Center—a holistic program for empowering low-income families in Greensboro. The Family Success Center acknowledges poverty as a complex and multifaceted challenge, and uses Integrated Service Delivery and intergenerational approaches to support the needs and goals of families, with a particular focus on the following core areas: employment, education, financial capability, health and wellness, and family and child development. Moreover, in addition to helping families move away from federal poverty levels, the Family Success Center aims to support families on a path toward financial self-sufficiency—a more ambitious outcome. The self-sufficiency standard is defined as the requisite level of income, with respect to a given geographic area and family structure, by which a family can successfully acquire all basic needs without reliance on public or private financial assistance.
As part of a growing partnership between the Jordan Institute for Families and the United Way of Greater Greensboro, I recently had the privilege of attending a tour of the Family Success Center. It is nothing short of amazing. Staff and administrators are passionate. Support services are comprehensive. Enthusiasm for building community is palpable. Without exception, those who facilitated the tour delivered a very important message: the families whom they serve are some of the most dedicated, resourceful, hard-working, and capable people out there. As articulated by Ms. Gethers-Clark, the CEO and President of the United Way of Greater Greensboro, “No one wakes up in the morning and decides they want no income.” Some of us simply need a chance, a more accepting and mobilized community, stronger economic policies and employment prospects, additional education and training, or someone who believes in us.
The term “facing poverty” often refers to those of us who experience poverty first-hand; however, I believe we all must face poverty, no matter our socio-economic standing and privilege. “Facing poverty” can mean working collectively to support families enduring economic hardship. “Facing poverty” can mean volunteering time and resources to bolster existing community efforts. “Facing poverty” can mean advocating for economic policies that promote adequate wages and jobs. And perhaps above all, “facing poverty” can mean putting a face to poverty—looking poverty in the eyes and acknowledging the dignity of every individual it touches; embracing the fact that we are all in this together. When we feel connected as communities, our hearts can guide our efforts to face and eradicate poverty. As Ms. Gethers-Clark puts it, “It’s all in the heart—follow your heart.”