For the 30th year, communities across the globe paused yesterday to recognize the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This is a moment to stand with and honor the millions of people suffering from poverty around the world. It is a day to recognize the shared responsibility that communities have to care for those in their midst who are suffering from poverty, houselessness, and other unwanted situations.
In our region, poverty often takes the visible form of houselessness. Cities such as Portland and Seattle are often seen as case studies in this crisis. However, this is a problem that communities throughout our region face. The reasons someone may enter a season of houselessness are many and varied. They include insufficient income, lack of affordable housing, domestic violence, and in some cases mental illness or substance abuse disorders. Frequently, it is a combination of several of these factors. Such varied causes require complex solutions, with responses that make space for the nuances and challenges of each individual situation.
Yet as this day recognizes, poverty is not inevitable. This means, too, that it is not irreversible. Change is possible, if we are willing to enter into the complexity and work with a spirit of collaboration rather than division.
At the Murdock Trust, we have the honor of seeing this kind of positive change every day. This change can look like new affordable housing units from the Catholic Charities of Oregon. It can look like new recovery and housing support for women and children experiencing houselessness in Portland, or a new domestic violence shelter in Billings, Montana. It is change formed by unconventional coalitions and innovative collaboration. Above all, it is a community effort, just as it is a community responsibility.
“When I see the ways people are creatively responding to homelessness,” says Steve Moore, CEO Emeritus of the Murdock Trust, “the ways in which they take what happens in the particular, they learn lessons about the general, and are able then to share and build out programs and services, and support that in the practical, you can’t help but be encouraged. You say, ‘There are people making a difference!’ There are people moving out of this. Things are changing.”
At the Trust, we say let it be so! And let this change begin in our communities, in our families, and in us.
To learn more about community responses to poverty and houselessness in our region, watch the above video from our 2020 Annual Video project. A huge thank you to all the nonprofits that participated in this project, including Covenant House Alaska, Hopa Mountain, The Idaho Foodbank, IRCO, LEAP Charities, Love INC Fairbanks, Millionair Club, Mountain Home Montana, REAP, Salem Free Clinics, United Way of Pierce County and Vine Maple Place. And thank you to every individual who shared their story with us.