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We can end poverty, but this is why we haven’t | – Teva Sienicki

The following text contains transcriptions, quotations, excerpts from an original source linked below.

We aim to help families attain self-sufficiency.
The stresses of growing up in poverty permanently alter the wiring and the brains of developing children, lowering their resilience and increasing their chances for a number of serious physical and emotional problems.
Studies tell us that kids in poverty fall behind early, and that by the time they’re 4 years old, they’re already a year and a half behind their middle class peers. And when they aren’t reading proficiently by third grade, they’re six times less likely to finish high school. It’s almost impossible for them to catch up.
There are 16 million children living in poverty in the USA.

We spend over a trillion dollars on poverty in America, and yet our poverty rate is far higher than most of the developed world, and is more than double that of our biggest global competitor – China.

Main ways we’re getting things wrong:
1) we’ve relegated poverty work to the realm of the heart (to the Mother Theresa’s, to the do-gooders, to the charities and the churches). And heart is absolutely essential, but my beef with leaving poverty there is that it’s dismissive of the seriousness and the complexity of the problem we’re trying to address. No matter how many cans of soup or warm beds we provide, we will not solve poverty without our brains as well. Too often we focus on the immediate human needs without addressing the issues that create them.

2) we need to stop placing the burden of escaping poverty on the individuals experiencing it, and start breaking down the crushing systems that keep people there. Like when we try to help people escape poverty by achieving self sufficiency, when in fact what we have is a structural problem. There are far too many jobs in our economy that just don’t pay a living wage. Presumably, we need all these jobs, so let’s think of a way to structure it so that parents who are working full-time or more earn enough to support their families.

There’s a causal relationship between the county you live in as a kid and your future earnings as an adult. Our goal is to impact these communities in which they live. We are social creatures urged toward progress by our social networks. We go with the trend, we join along. #SheepleStatusIsReal

Rather than merely providing direct services, we aim to build equity in our community by reforming systems and policies.
We began by going door to door to see how they saw their community and to ask what help they needed. It is about doing things, not for people, but with people. This is a small-scale approach to ending systemic poverty.
Early childhood intervention — if we can prepare a child to learn and stay on that path until 3rd grade, then they are on the path toward success. We are saving money on future spending on these individuals as well.
The critical need to build affordable housing!

To read the original posting, Click here.

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Teva Sienicki has experienced first-hand the devastating, cyclical nature of inter-generational poverty. In this inspiring talk, she argues that in order to end poverty once and for all, we need to treat the root causes of the problem, not just the symptoms. Teva is passionate about building equity and closing the achievement gap for low-income kids. She transformed Growing Home, which began as a small shelter, into an anti-poverty organization that serves over 4,600 families annually. Winner of the Livingston Fellowship, her approach emphasizes innovation, analysis, and teamwork.

We need to solve poverty nationally. And we can. We can do this the way we’ve achieved other historical accomplishments. When we set out to cure Polio or put a man on the moon, we started by setting an audacious goal, and committing to a long process of trial and error, dedicating resources and research to the problem, and utilizing our experts. We can do this again, for this problem (homelessness). We must pledge that we will not allow this cycle to continue, not in the biggest economy the world has ever known. We all have a role to play. Not just non-profits and churches, but businesses and government too. Poverty is a complicated problem with a complicated history, impacted by complicated systems, and so it’s easy to get overwhelmed and just go back to doing what we’ve always done, or worst yet, do nothing at all.
Let’s acknowledge these tough truths and move forward. Let’s stop blaming those homeless for being born poor, and growing up poor and ending up poor as if it’s somehow their fault. Instead, let’s look at systemic underpinnings of inequity that perpetuates cycles of poverty. Let’s commit our hearts, and our heads to solving this as a nation and not just in small communities. And let’s invite the experts to the table, in this case – members of the communities that are impacted. We set out as one small non-profit to end poverty in our community; let’s commit our vast resources to creating a tipping-point as a nation so that we can stop treating the symptoms of poverty and end it once and for all.

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