January is Poverty Awareness Month

January 2018 is National Poverty in America Awareness Month.

Rev. Carolyn Foster
Faith in Community Coordinator

How often do you think about poverty or people living in poverty or poverty-related issues or concerns?  Seldom, occasionally, frequently?  Of course, the answer to this question depends on one’s life experience.  For example, if you live comfortably and have few money related concerns, most likely thoughts of poverty seldom or rarely cross your mind.  If you are able to make ends meets but there is little to no room in the budget for extras, you might think about poverty occasionally, such as when the car is in need repair, or a home heating bill is higher than expected.  But if every day is a struggle financially because there is not enough for even the basic necessities such as food, clothing and shelter, then poverty causes a lot of stress in your life and most likely dominates your thoughts.

January is Poverty Awareness Month.  Raising awareness about poverty is the ultimate goal of this observance.  When we can truly understand each other’s struggle, especially people experiencing poverty, our common humanity can be more finely tuned.  Poverty Awareness Month can also be an opportunity to educate one’s self and work for solutions to end poverty in our city, state and country.  Alabama is the fourth poorest state in the nation and has the 24th highest population in the U.S.  However, 900,000 Alabamians live in poverty; 300,000 of them are children.  The poor and the working poor struggle to gain access to food, healthcare, housing, or good jobs.  They are our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and even members of our own families.

GBM’s work with the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is bringing much needed attention to the immorally of allowing people living in one of the richest countries in the world to struggle in poverty.  The dominant narrative is to blame poor people for poverty instead of challenging social networks that hinder the poor from creating a better life for themselves and their families.  You are encouraged to become an active part of this movement and help change this narrative.  GBM’s long history of bringing together the poor and those who are not to work for the good of our one community is at the heart of our commitment to human dignity.

Human dignity and raising awareness about people living in poverty can be more fully explored as GBM offers Trading Places: A Poverty Simulation.  Aimed at helping the community dive more deeply into understanding the experience of living in poverty, this simulation takes participants through unique exercises and tasks to provide food, shelter and other basic necessities during the course of a simulated month.  It can help break down stereotypes and can leave a lasting impression as participants step into the real life shoes of families living in poverty.  Shades Valley Presbyterian Church in Birmingham will host this event on Saturday, January 20th from 9 am – 1 pmYou are invited to participate and invite members of your Outreach or Social Justice team from your faith community.  To sign up, click here.

Poverty is complex.  This simulation allows participants to experience these complexities and learn how the effects of poverty impact low-income individuals and raise greater awareness and sensitivity to their struggles.  Trading Places: A Poverty Simulation can help participants rethink poverty.