Today is World Poverty Day, a day that sheds light on what many of us don’t experience and sometimes don’t even see. Poverty is economically defined in underdeveloped countries as an individual living on less than $2 a day. For those in the States, this number jumps to about $35 a day, according to Poverty USA.
In 2018, 11.8% of the US population lived in poverty… that’s 38.1 million people, or about 1 in every 8 people who live below the poverty line. While this was a small decrease from 2017, we still have a lot of work to do to see this number continue to drop.
NOW, LET’S TALK ABOUT DALLAS… To bring this a little closer to home, the State of Texas has a population of about 28 million people, and nearly 4.3 million of them live in poverty. In just the city of Dallas alone, a population of about 1.3 million, nearly 22 percent live in poverty. That’s one out of every 4.6 people.
One out of nearly five people… that’s a lot. For many Dallas residents, however, that one person can easily be missed, especially when you stay on a certain side of town.
“Poor people didn’t really exist in Dallas for me,” Elisabeth Jordan, Founder of The Human Impact, said. “I actually had to go onto Google, and I typed in ‘what’s the poorest area of Dallas’ and what came up was South Dallas.”
Elisabeth grew up in Highland Park, one of the many affluent neighborhoods in the city. Grocery stores, restaurants and shopping are all available in this area, so many living there (and in many other parts of Dallas) never really have to leave to get their needs met.
It was when Elisabeth made that Google search over six years ago and began visiting the streets of South Dallas with Larry James, the Executive Director of CitySquare, that the reality of poverty became real to her. That “one in every five” began to have a face.
Elisabeth and a few of her friends on the streets of South Dallas.
IT’S ABOUT FRIENDSHIP… It was her new friend Matthew. And Rhonda and her boyfriend Nick. It was Peggy and Carl and Sam and so many others she started to build a friendship with and care for. They were the one in five who many in Dallas never really see, and knowing their names and their stories changed her.
Out of that time spent on the streets, Elisabeth was introduced to the numerous nonprofits in the city doing good things, but she saw that there was a gap. Those who were homeless had many resources available to them thanks to these nonprofits, but they often didn’t have a support system, a friend who simply walked with them on their journey toward living a flourishing life. Someone who was there not to give resources, but to ask for friendship.
Not long after this, Elisabeth started The Human Impact, a Dallas nonprofit focused on befriending the homeless and bridging the relational divide of the rich and poor.
“Authentic relationships with those in need have a way of correcting the we-will-rescue-you mindset and replacing it with mutual admiration and respect…” Robert D. Lupton wrote in his book Toxic Charity.
Lupton elaborated more on the root causes of poverty in his book Charity Detox, when he wrote: “It is beginning to dawn on the world of compassion that the root causes of poverty can be addressed effectively only through development, not through one-way giving…. Betterment does for others. Development maintains the long view and looks to enable others to do for themselves. Betterment improves conditions. Development strengthens capacity. Betterment gives a man a fish. Development teaches a man how to fish.”
So, on this World Poverty Day, seek out that one, find out their name, ask them their story, and treat them with respect. Be a friend… our city will be better for it.