How do we come together to address poverty in our community? What can we do as human services organizations?
In January, San Bernardino County Human Services convened over 15 county departments, community and faith-based organizations, and county residents to join together in a month-long campaign to encourage action and innovative solutions— Poverty Awareness Month.
CaSonya Thomas, Assistant Executive Officer of Human Services, highlighted the goal of Poverty Awareness Month in a video to all staff and community members, “The goal is to provide awareness and education on the complex issues of poverty. There is hope, and we are here to work together to identify innovative solutions to end intergenerational poverty.”
The goals of the campaign included:
- Building on individual and combined strengths to develop safety nets and lasting solutions to poverty
- Providing awareness and education to service providers, private industry, and others whose daily work and service connects them with people living in poverty
- Empowering those living in poverty with hope-filled testaments, education, resources, and workforce training
- Reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with poverty
The Board of Supervisors kicked off the month by adopting a resolution proclaiming January 2018 as Poverty Awareness Month. Human services agencies, including Child Support Services, were instrumental in coordinating and participating in several community events and activities as well as highlighting programs and services, sharing success stories, and recognizing empowered champions via social media throughout the month. In addition, a poverty awareness calendar was created and shared through various mediums to help educate the community.
Human service agencies and stakeholders also coordinated a screening and panel discussion of the FRONTLINE documentary “Poor Kids” in two different geographical regions of the county. The film explored what poverty means to children in America through the stories of three families. Immediately following the screening, several agencies and community partners provided insight into how their programs help to address poverty.
One of the highlights of the month was the first Annual Poverty Symposium. The symposium highlighted poverty awareness through several different workshops. Tiela Chlamers, with the Alameda County Bar Association and Volunteer Legal Services Corporation, conducted a poverty simulation for the participants. The workshop was an interactive immersion workshop that sensitized participants to the realities of those living in poverty.
Kathy Estes, with the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, provided insight into poverty through the work of Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Ms. Estes provided insight to help build a foundation to understand issues that sometimes affect achievement and success for the community of poverty.
John McNeil, with the Pacific Institute, highlighted the STEPS Program, which provides an educational and cognitive training model designed to empower individuals by building hope, esteem, and future-oriented thinking.
The next step for county departments and community and faith-based partners is to work together and leverage resources to identify ways to strengthen safety net programs that provide the critical support needed to end intergenerational poverty.