According to Poverty USA, more than 38 million people in the United States currently live in poverty.
The month of January is dedicated to bringing awareness to this crucial issue that is at the forefront of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s mission. January is Poverty Awareness Month.
Who Lives in Poverty?
Individuals and families that earn less than the Federal Government’s poverty threshold are considered to be living in poverty. There are two main classifications of poverty:
- Absolute Poverty: When a household income is below the poverty threshold making it impossible for the individual or family to meet their basic needs including food, housing, safe drinking water, education, healthcare, etc. For those living in absolute poverty, their situation remains unchanged no matter the economic state of where they live.
- Relative Poverty: The condition in which people are deprived of the minimum amount of income needed in order to maintain the average of standard living in their community. Those that fall in this category have money, but not enough to “keep up with the Joneses.” This type of poverty can change with economic growth in the country. This category, while it may not seem as extreme as absolute poverty, can still be permanent.
Poverty can also be broken into two groups called “Generational Poverty” and “Situational Poverty.”
- Generational Poverty: A family that has lived in poverty for at least two generations. Those experiencing generational poverty often deal with hopelessness, tend to focus on survival over planning, have different values and patterns than those who have not grown up in poverty.
- Situational Poverty: A individual or family’s income and support is decreased due to a specific change – job loss, divorce, death, etc. Those coping with situational poverty tend to remain hopeful, considering it a temporary setback.
The COVID-19 Pandemic and Poverty in the U.S.
In the years leading up to 2020, poverty had gradually been declining in the United States. In 2019, the poverty rate was at 10.5%, the lowest since 1959. Then, COVID hit.
According to Human Rights Watch, since the start of the pandemic, 74.7 million people have lost work, forcing them to dip into savings, depleting individual reserves.
Census Bureau data shows how households with different incomes are coping with the pandemic and that low-income households are disproportionally struggling for their social and economic needs to be met. Among households with incomes below $35,000, 47% of adults report being behind on housing payments, and 25% say they struggle to put food on the table.
While stimulus checks, and tax credits have offered a little help over the past two years, the problem persists.
SVdP Is Here to Help
Our mission is: “A network of friends, inspired by Gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.”
Vincentians around the world have dedicated themselves to offering our suffering brothers and sisters a hand up in their time of need. Through a combination of spiritual and material aid, we seek to help those suffering from poverty. While we do assist with food and rental assistance – the things you picture those living in poverty to be most desperate for – SVdP’s goal is to help make a “systemic change.”
Systemic Change is a key facet of the Society’s work to end poverty. It goes beyond addressing immediate needs and instead, partners with the poor to identify the root causes of their poverty and remove the barriers that keep people impoverished.
“The money or assistance in-kind that we give to those who are poor will not last long. We must aspire to a more complete and longer lasting benefit: study their abilities … and help them get work to help them out of their difficulties.” – Blessed Rosalie Rendu
To learn more about how SVdP helps those living in poverty, click to visit our website.