A major crisis
More than half of Central Florida families are being left out and left behind
Jesus commanded us to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’. The significance of this command and its potential for enduring impact on communities everywhere is more important today than ever!
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 64% of Central Florida families were living in poverty or teetering on the edge! The pandemic has served to expose the issues of financial fragility and widespread hardship being experienced by a majority of families in our region. As a community, we cannot move forward while leaving people behind. Currently, significantly more than half of our families are being left out and left behind!
Approximately 350,000 families in Central Florida have insufficient income to cover the cost of basic living expenses (rent, food, utilities, phone, transportation to/from work, childcare, healthcare etc.). Many are forced to work two or more jobs to make ends meet, and all of them are one unexpected emergency expense away from a financial crisis.
You meet these people every day; they are friends and neighbors; people working in your local grocery store; people serving you in restaurants, retail stores and your dry cleaners; daycare workers and teachers; nursing and medical assistants; entry-level police officers and firefighters; office workers … the people who keep the infrastructure of our community operating!
The root cause of many issues
Research clearly shows that the significant struggle to make ends meet year after year and generation after generation, referred to as poverty, is the root cause of many of the social, community and global concerns we face – homelessness, hunger, childhood trauma, addiction, domestic violence, life-threatening diseases, to name but a few. If we can alleviate this struggle, we can impact many of the social issues facing our community.
But something’s off! We feel it and we think part of the reason you’re here is you feel it too.
Poverty isn't only a lack of resources but also a lack of relationships
Changing the narrative
The faith community has poured countless resources, volunteer hours, and money into benevolence and outreach ministries. Yet, if this is the case, why are so many still stuck in the cycle of poverty and unable to make ends meet? Add in the work of area non-profits and we all have to ask, why is the number of people who are struggling to make ends meet increasing?
To answer this question, we need to start not with the current approach to solving poverty, but with an expanded definition. We often define poverty as a lack of things, be it housing, sufficient income, or food. So, believing they are the solution, we provide those resources—financial assistance, groceries, and other tangible goods—however, research clearly shows that poverty isn’t only a lack of resources but also a lack of relationships.
The importance of relationships
Think about the last time you (or someone you know) were looking for a job. Where did you start? You most likely didn’t reach out immediately to a professional service but started with who you knew. Whether coworkers, friends, or family, you had a support network that was there to encourage you and connect you to opportunities.
Research shows that, on average 25% of jobs are obtained through a social connection, not a job listing. So, without this support network, people only have access to 75% of jobs available.
This is just one example among hundreds of why having an established relational ‘safety net’ is vital for everyone.
Providing resources only addresses the SYMPTOMS and does not uproot the underlying CAUSES of poverty
In order to exit poverty, families need access to both resources and relationships. Providing resources only addresses the SYMPTOMS of poverty; it does not uproot the underlying CAUSES that created the need in the first place. This is why those of us providing resources burn out and get confused and disappointed when the same families come year after year to receive assistance.
The solution involves something in which every single one of us can participate; something so profoundly simple and yet the evidence shows it has the power to transform communities!
A solution where we create healthy relationships with those in our communities. Healthy relationships that provide connection, encouragement, dignity, access to knowledge and experience, the ability to contribute our gifts, value and self-worth, reciprocity, support, respect and opportunity.
A way forward where we don't only provide poverty alleviation but can transform communities and eradicate poverty. And while this is good news for our community, it is also good news for our churches. Burnout isn’t a necessary side effect of engaging in this work. We can pursue this vision with joy and abundance, creating the long-term impacts that lead to thriving families and flourishing communities.
We invite you to explore, with us, how you can be a part of the solution.