Poverty? Your Problem.
Blame the Rhode Island Affordable Housing Bond for sending me officially over the edge. The referendum called for $25 million to fund the construction or renovation of about 600 affordable housing units statewide. It got approved alright. By the smallest margin of all the referendums. Why? Because no one gives a shit about poor people.
Barrington, Foster, North Smithfield and West Greenwich, thank you for proving my point. For those of you who don't call the Ocean State home, what these communities share is the luxury to be removed from the situation. In other words: Not my problem.
The percentage of people voting to reject the affordable housing bond in these communities was, respectively: 54.2%, 51.2%, 54% and 50.6%. (November 7, Providence Journal). How does this compare with the child poverty rate? Pretty darn directly. According Kids Count, the 2006-2010 stats, per respective community, are: 2.4%, 3.1%, 5.6% and 9.3%. But in Providence? My 'hood? The child poverty rate clocks in at 35.6%. Let that marinate for a second. Over one third of the kids living in the capital city live under the poverty line. Here, the bond got approved by 80.5%.
Newsflash: This IS your problem. This is my problem. This is everyone's problem.
The mindset we've created in this state, where fake casinos have become the third largest source of tax revenue--your problem. (Trust. No one's going to confuse Twin River with Foxwoods. Ever.) The culture created where big money goes to a washed-up major league pitcher to create fantasy jobs--your problem. That the 'affordable' in-state university now costs $10K + for tuition alone--your problem. The fact that I've recently counseled four young people in my community about getting a GED--all your problem.
And what do these 'poor people' have in common with you? Humanity for sure. A desire to do better. And yes, economics. I was recently floored by a point made by Race 2012 on PBS that presented a concept that should change the tide of opinion, and needs to be re-broadcast. Loudly, even though it's strictly financially based and a sad commentary that money always commands attention, especially over social reform.
So, hear this: Those uneducated young people that have no place in your world? Those 'poor, poor people' that you manage to avoid on the daily, so you won't catch something from them? Someday in the not so distant future, you're going to need them. That's right. This young generation, currently deemed as disposable, are someday going to be the ones to finance YOUR social security.
I repeat. Your problem.
The amazing thing about poverty is that it's just a symptom. It's not a lifestyle choice. It's not a grand aspiration. It's not a death sentence. And the solution? Shockingly easy. Education. For all. So can we just commit to doing our part to help?
As I was feverishly typing this, my husband recruited me for a mentoring opportunity at Rhode Island College, called Learning for Life. Its mission? To provide support to help first generation college students stay in school and obtain their degrees.
No accidents. I'm in.