The Washington POST recently published a Letter to the Editor by Interfaith Works CEO Courtney Hall addressing misconceptions about people experiencing poverty. Check out his letter below.
As chief executive of an anti-poverty organization, I welcomed Mark R. Rank’s column debunking myths about poverty. At Interfaith Works, we serve more than 17,000 people in Montgomery County annually. They are challenged by homelessness, underemployment, and lack of access to food and clothing. The coronavirus pandemic has made some situations worse. I was struck particularly by one of those myths: Poverty is something that happens to other people. At Interfaith Works, we meet and serve people where they are. They come from all walks of life. Some have struggled with poverty all their lives. For others, it is a new circumstance triggered by unexpected events — the coronavirus, job loss, divorce or health expenses that overwhelmed. No matter how it happened, no one wants to be poor. This raises another myth: Poverty is the result of individual failure. The notion that being poor is someone’s own fault never seems to die. Through our work, we know many people living in poverty hold down two or even three jobs, often with no benefits. Safety net programs can help in a crisis, but navigating the systems can be discouraging or at times nearly impossible. I appreciate The Post spotlighting this topic. We must stop dehumanizing people with labels and start acknowledging that all individuals want a pathway to a stable, hopeful life. And yes, sometimes they need help. We all do.Courtney Hall, Laurel
The writer is chief executive of Interfaith Work