I recently began reading a book entitled “The Alterative: Most of What You Believe About Poverty is Wrong by Mauricio Miller. Some of the things in the book resonated with my own beliefs about how we provide services to low-income individuals and families and those living in poverty. In his book, Miller argues that people involved in anti-poverty work often do more harm than good. He further asserts that low-income families need to be assisted in solving their own problems, not temporarily rescued with outside resources. Although helping people may sound charitable, it often keeps the helper in control and the beneficiary dependent, offering only a short-term boost. That is why we see generations of poverty, of families using social programs for their day-to-day existence, just as their parents did and generations before them.
It is Miller’s belief that we should instead support their own efforts to expand their opportunities, options, and choices. When I look at my own clients, many of them are doing so many things right for themselves. However, systems that are supposed to help them, often hinder them in their progress. For example, there is no reason that a person should leave incarceration without a GED; birth certificate, state—issued identification, social security card and resume at minimum. Imagine, how much easier it would be to get employed if you had those things which all employers must request. Instead, they are released without these documents and caught in an endless loop of trying to obtain one when you don’t have the other.
I also have clients that are working two jobs but spending a large portion of their small income to pay for ridesharing services, like Uber, because public transportation is a huge barrier in our County. What if we came together as service providers, individuals, companies, churches, etc. to see how we could solve the transportation issue, instead of just saying……..it’s a problem. Some of Miller’s other ideas include matching the savings of a person trying to buy a house or helping someone transform their side hustle into a business or a second job into a primary line of work.
I am not one that just wants to complain about what is wrong. I am a problem-solver. I have some ideas, but more ideas are needed. So I am creating a Facebook Group where we can share ideas, strategies and on occasion come together to discuss ways we can alleviate the transportation barrier for returning citizens and others so they can get to work, and to other needed services and opportunities. It is our hope that for those whom transportation is a barrier, you will join this group and share your ideas as well as others that want to effect positive change. If interested in participating in the discussion, click here.