, Salem, MA


December 13, 2013

Column: Engaging in the lives of others

I want to thank the Salem News for covering the Nov. 18 forum on the growth of suburban poverty that North Shore United Way was proud to co-sponsor alongside MAPC, the Brookings Institution, and the North Shore CDC. The impetus for the conversation is the 20 percent increase in poverty on the North Shore over the last 10 years.

The numbers have increased not because the poor are moving to the North Shore but because poverty is increasing across the nation. According to the 2010 Census, more than one in seven people in the United States lives below the poverty line.

Continuing public conversations like this one is critical as we recognize that we all want to live in a healthy, strong community. As I sit in the comfort of my home, I can’t help but think of the challenges that face parents raising children from a motel room, miles from work or a grocery store. When I think of my own family’s holiday meal, I am stuck by the sheer length of the lines for Thanksgiving food assistance at Beverly Bootstraps, near my office.

So often our public conversation about the economy exists in the realm of politics. While these are important conversations, there is an individual, human element we sometimes lose. While the economy has improved for many this year, there continues to exist a human struggle in our midst that tugs at my heart, even in the frenzy of daily life.

While I argue we need more attention paid to the challenges facing very low-income families among us, I admit that these are hard conversations to have. Despite the fact that more than half of Americans will drop below the poverty line at some point before age 65, most of us lack extensive experience with the face of poverty. The result is a national dialogue that pits us against one another. We need conversations that are local; conversations that are informed, creative, and inclusive. The solutions that will make our communities stronger and healthier will include action by all residents — rich and poor alike.

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