World peace, a cure for cancer, the end of poverty—given one wish, these are the things many people would ask for. It would be a shame if we treated them as impossible outside of unexpected intervention, though. While specifically eradicating poverty is a tough task, you need to operate as if radical change is possible. This change doesn’t come from a genie, but rather from the collective efforts of many. It takes employment programs, reform, charitable drives, and personal relationships to make a dent. And it takes years of diligent work to see results. If you’re ready for a life of service or are already in the midst of it, here are some ideas on how to fight poverty in your community.
Empower Impoverished People
Before you do anything, consider how you should start. Being too hasty causes you to inadvertently assert your perspective rather than taking in what people in poverty think and feel. As a baseline, learn about the cause. Research poverty statistics, look through different testimonials, and read memoirs and novels concerning the subject. Though learning about something as dense as poverty is a lifelong process, this foundation helps you move forward in the meantime.
Also, seek out relationships with people without a home near you. This is a simple matter of stopping to talk instead of wordlessly passing by. Learning their specific concerns helps you authentically stand up for them in whatever capacity you have. When enacting a program, don’t just act as impoverished individuals’ mouthpiece—empower their voices directly. Give space for them to advocate for themselves and others in the homeless community directly through some type of council or other body.
Fight for Criminal Justice Reform
The first practical way to fight poverty in your community is through criminal justice reform. The United States incarcerates more people per capita than any other country, totaling 2.3 million men and women. A sizable portion are in prison or jail for small-scale, nonviolent drug charges, a disproportionate number of whom are black men and women. Incarcerated people experience significant financial disruption upon conviction because they cannot continue their job. For everyone in the prison system, but most poignantly for black people with minor drug crimes, this needlessly contributes to future homelessness.
To join the fight against poverty, join forces with an established criminal justice organization. Some help the accused or incarcerated secure legal counsel while others educate groups on the inequalities of the prison system. You can also learn about the topic yourself and advocate through your personal platforms.
Facilitate Ex-Convict Reentry
The current prison system prioritizes punishment over rehabilitation and does not set people up for success upon release from incarceration. To compound the problem, employers have easy access to someone’s criminal record, making it harder for them to find a job and, by extension, a place to live.
There are also quality reentry charities that connect ex-convicts with secure jobs and/or employment counseling. Beyond supporting these organizations, you can throw your weight into getting your place of work involved. Hiring on a few people makes all the difference in their life and allows them a soft landing after serving their sentence.
Plan a School Supply Drive
Generally, access to quality education is a solid weapon against poverty. It betters kids’ outcomes by giving them diverse skills ideal for a broad range of jobs. But an education is only “quality” to the degree that students can participate in it, and they can’t participate without basic supplies.
To help, get in touch with a local school or charity about putting on a supply drive for nearby kids. Depending on student needs, you can ask for wholesale bookbags, pens and pencils, rulers, and anything else that’s in short supply. These drives, on the whole, involve deciding on drop-off points, picking a timeframe, advertising on social media, packaging donations, and delivering the donations to those in need.
Volunteer for Your Local Homeless Shelter
One of the most visible opponents of poverty is your local homeless shelter. They take in impoverished people who have nowhere else to go, and depending on the shelter, these shelters may offer long-term saving programs to help people get on their feet. These work by guaranteeing people housing for a short time as they look for and begin a job. As they earn paychecks, the shelter keeps a large chunk in a savings account for them until the individual earns enough to move into permanent supportive housing.
To get in on this good work, offer a shelter your time. Your specialized skills (such as graphic design) could come in handy. Otherwise, they may have you doing menial tasks. Still, because cleaning floors and doing laundry helps daily life at a shelter continue, you shouldn’t hesitate to dive right in.
Give to a Food Pantry
Even more foundational than education in the fight against poverty is access to predictable food and water. Abraham Maslow, a notable psychologist, developed his famous hierarchy of needs to articulate how humans achieve fulfillment, placing food and water in as the base of the physiological needs category. To boil it down, this means that people need to have dependable sources of food, water, and shelter before people can focus on progressing in a certain career path or industry.
You can help with this cause by going all out for a local food pantry. Buying up bulk items they request in a drive keeps them fully stocked and ready to help people in need. Also, committing to a longstanding partnership in the future gives them the assurance that they can generously give without running out of anything.
Mentor a Youth
If you want to take a distinctly personal approach, become a mentor to an at-risk youth. Kids and young adults crave a positive and supportive relationship with an adult. Those most at-risk unfortunately lack these relationships, creating a vacuum in their life. Without someone to provide consistent guidance, they are more likely to make decisions that contribute to homelessness.
Stepping into this role as a mentor isn’t easy. You need to forge trust in the few meetings you have with your mentee without overstepping your bounds. This tightrope walk, although slow, is infinitely rewarding when you gain their ear. Your input and presence provide your mentee with a new and attractive template for how they can live their life, and you can have a greater impact on them than you know. If your specific fight against poverty involves donating tangible items, get in touch with 2moda. Our team can tell you more about all our wholesale supplies we offer for students, the homeless, and anyone else in need.