The Times Leader’s editorial asked the question about whether it was a good idea to end giveaways to the poor (April 14). The Opinion Board suggests breaking an alleged culture of dependency by promoting self-sufficiency. Namely, the poor could change their lot, if only they worked harder.
The suggested ideas embrace some of those proposed in Robert Lupton’s book “Toxic Charity.” Some of Lupton’s suggestions are worthy of consideration. The easy answers the newspaper’s board leaps on, however, mislead.
If only the solution to poverty were so simple as motivating the poor.
The condescending tone of the Opinion Board’s editorial is only one indication of its lack of knowledge about poverty. Accusing the many volunteer health care and administrative professionals who donate their time to assist the poor as having “fuzzy feelings” is insulting.
They also admit they had not talked to any of the Valley’s social service providers. Well, I can offer one perspective, partly based on the activities in our church, which currently offers free clothing donations, medical and dental clinics, a food pantry, and even rummage sales to help provide to the poor. We used to offer a daytime shelter, before money for that was cut. Our efforts to offer a permanent night shelter remain stalled by local officials.
Is all this a waste of time and effort?
The Opinion Board seems to think that all poor people are constantly drawing on all those services for extended periods, trapped in their dependency. In fact, most people who take assistance move in and out of poverty. They have been struck by a sudden emergency – with job, health, family issues – and soon recover. Do we want them to work for a handout?
As for the minority who remain in poverty longer, many suffer from illness, which include addiction and mental health problems. The sick cannot simply work themselves out of poverty. Some are marginalized by their criminal records. And many others would love to work their way out of poverty, but cannot, because there are too few jobs, and of those for which they qualify, most pay too little.
No one wants money wasted, even on welfare for the rich and for corporations or dumped into foolish wars. Why do we not look to those areas to be frugal?
For now, every one of us is but one crisis away from poverty. Providing help to the poor is in our own self-interest. Even more, it is about humane justice and mercy.
The Rev. Brian Pavlac
Co-interim priest associate
St. Stephen’s Pro-Cathedral