By Yvette Scorse, Communications Associate
Is Poverty Something We Can End?
This question and others were raised during the National Conference on Ending Poverty, where Byte Back was represented, among dozens of other organizations serving people in poverty.
Over the course of the day-long conference, it was clear that ending poverty wasn’t something to be worked out on a Saturday at the Washington Convention Center, but it was a time to take responsibility for poverty. We reflected on Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s words: “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.” The facts on poverty leave no doubt that we all need to claim responsibility:
- More than 18% of people in DC are living below poverty level.
- Poverty is up 40% in the last 15 years in the United States.
- A quarter of U.S. jobs pay below poverty wage for a family of four, according to Peter Edelman, a poverty scholar.
As my weekend continued on after the conference, I observed people around DC who looked far-removed from poverty. I thought about another quote, from Franklin D. Roosevelt, shared by the conference’s host A Wider Circle: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”
If that was true, I struggled to see that any progress was being made here in the District.
On the other hand, while we aren’t even close to ending poverty, there are people who care. There are people in DC who care with their minds, with their hearts, with their time, with their funds.
People are taking action. Hearing about the specific efforts of DC area nonprofits So Others Might Eat, Bread for the City, Capital Area Food Bank, Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, and the Latin American Youth Center, among others, shined hope. They are all providing “for those who have little.” That is progress.
Byte Back’s own work shows immense progress. We are giving people access to knowledge, to computers, to the Internet, to careers. This is not a quick or temporary solution to poverty but a truly sustainable answer. Knowledge and skills are empowering people to permanently climb out of poverty.
We will probably not see the end of poverty in our lifetime, but we are taking steps everyday, person-by-person toward the end.