Lent Carr On Poverty In Raleigh/Wake County & Remedial Solutions…
Raleigh NC– On this platform issue of grave proportion, Lent Carr will explore the roots of economic prosperity and offer suggestions for finding the path out of extreme poverty for the City of Raleigh/Wake County’s poorest citizens and offer remedial solutions alternatives for bringing down Raleigh’s crime rate as a result of tackling one of the most overlooked issues of Southeast East Raleigh—POVERTY. For more than 26 years in the Ministry and working with those less fortunate of our community, Carr’s foot work advocacy for this segment of our Municipality, his experience of having been raised in the Projects and extensive research has led him to an unyielding and keen understanding of what it means to be poor and left behind socio-economically right here in the United States of America, and exactly what it will take to end this inhumane cycle. The result of such experiences of understanding is this practical “platform issue” , which combines practical experience with acute professional analysis and a belief that ideas, if well thought through and based on sound thinking and historical experience, can play a central role in eradicating poverty in our time and in our great City.
I think it appropriate to first look back into history trove’s of unlimited thinking and possibilities in order to artfully present this argument of eradicating poverty in our backyard. Not long ago, on September 12, 1962 a man of limitless ideas walked on the magnificent stage and postured himself behind a huge oak finished podium at Rice University in Houston Texas and declared without any reservations of doubt and/or apathy: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” That man was none other than President John F. Kennedy; a man of vision and resolve. I, like President Kennedy believe that anything is possible when we build a strong consensus of our “will to do.” The cynic says: “why move on such an ambitious issue?” I say: “why not!” If a man could dream and make that dream a reality of going to the moon, then certainly one could easily envision a City without extreme poverty. Kennedy made history in sending the first man to the moon, and at this pivotal time in our City’s history we can all make history (as a National Model) by eradicating major poverty here in Raleigh, North Carolina.
For those of you who say that poverty is a global shame, but there is no way to fix it, I say just view this issue with an open mind and follow Lent Carr’s reasoning with an attentive eye on the solutions rather than the problem itself. It is promised in this platform that Carr’s experience and wisdom on this issue will tell us something very different. For even if you do not agree with all of his prescriptions, it is impossible to deny that the needless deaths of so many people every year from extreme poverty does call for action on a global scale.
I am proposing herein that we can make those targets, and could actually cut by half the extreme poverty in Raleigh, in all its dimensions by the year 2015: that we can make those targets, and that we can see our way through a decade beyond, and actually end extreme poverty in the City within the coming 20 years. My proposition is that we are the first generation in history that can honestly make that claim. The fact that we can make it, in my view, also makes it unavoidable that we try. It is one thing for millions of people to be dying every year because they are too poor to stay alive; it is another thing for millions to be dying every year because they are too poor to be staying alive and for us to know it and not to act.
That, I think, is the real existential situation of our City, that there is no excuse. The deaths are on our watch. The deaths are in our name. The deaths can stop.
The reason people die of extreme poverty is that they have nothing. They don’t need a lot to stay alive, and they don’t even need a lot to start the process of economic development. It would not require heroism on our part in order to help save those lives and help to promote economic development where it is not occurring now in Raleigh. It would just take having our eyes opened. It would take some attention. It would take a breakthrough in our country from doing nothing to doing something, because we really are, essentially, doing nothing right now. That is the sad, hard fact.
In the last few weeks, the President, though I support him on a host of his initiative, and our Congress has spoken a thousand times about economic freedom for the middle class and the wealthy without speaking once about poverty. That is what we have to change if we are going to address this challenge. It can be changed. Americans will want to change it. Americans don’t know what we aren’t doing and don’t know what we could be doing. It is not that there is evil or uncaring in the land; it is a lack of understanding of the basic realities.
Why is that? I will speak for myself. There is no way in the world I would have understood anything without the chance to see and experience it myself. Because there is no way in the world I would have read in the news or media, or even in the professional journals that I read, the basic facts and contours of the situation. When one is chanced to see it or to have one’s eyes opened and directed towards the problems, I think there is a lot of clarity that can result. That clarity can lead to action, and the action can lead to some stupendous results, not only in saving those lives, but, I daresay, in saving our own as well. Until we take up this challenge, pertinent segments of Raleigh/Wake County is going to be awfully insecure and unstable and unhappy to say the least. Maybe it is sad to say that even after 26 years, every day is still shocking for me—sometimes shocking in the enormity of the crisis, sometimes shocking in the simplicity of the solutions. One has to work at it. Even more exciting, whatever poor neighborhood I happen to go to, the people know a tremendous amount about what they need and the realities of their lives, contrary to what we think. The people I speak to never strike me as asking for an hand-me-out—It is just that they need some help.
So let me describe for a few minutes why this paradoxical situation in the Raleigh exists, where, in the 21st
century, the United States is a $40,000 per capita economy, we have a billion people living in a degree of
affluence that was unimaginable even a quarter-century ago, we have much of the world achieving development, and yet we have a significant part of the world dying of poverty. That is the first question that needs to be addressed. We need a diagnosis. We need an understanding of what the challenge is.Then we need some practical ways ahead.
The good news is that economic development is a reality. It works. Most of the world has escaped from
extreme poverty. When I talk about extreme poverty, I am talking about poverty that is so severe that
basic needs cannot be fulfilled. What are basic needs? Adequate daily nutritional intake, safe drinking water, basic sanitation, a livelihood that can support survival, that can give a chance for a child to make his or her way through school, access to essential health services in a health emergency, a disease spell. When those conditions are not met, that is extreme poverty.
Listen, two hundred years ago, everybody was in extreme poverty, aside from the few kings and queens and dukes and princes that we read of in the books and plays and histories. Everybody was in extreme poverty. Life was short. Public health didn’t exist. Medicine was putting leeches on patients. Under-nutrition was chronic. Famines were regular. That was true in Europe, as well as anywhere else in the world. That has all changed over the last two centuries since the Industrial Revolution. We really did figure out a lot in this world about how to grow food more reliably, about how to harness energy, about how to make water and sanitation safe and available and reliable. The result has spread through almost all of the world. In fact, even with the poorest parts of the world, there has been some economic improvement compared to two centuries ago.
Now the question is; what do we do as-pertaining to a cure of this social disease plaguing segments of Raleigh? Whenever you are faced with a generational social issue such as poverty, I believe we should not spend much time looking back into history for the cause effect, but rather we should look forward to the present and future climates of resolutions. Nominally speaking, we must look to the generation who’ll inevitably be affected by this generational poverty degradation—OUR YOUTH!
As a society, Americans believe in equal opportunity for all. Hard work should be rewarded, and a full-time job should afford enough income to support a family with dignity. Children should have more and better opportunities than their parents did, and race and ethnicity should not be major factors in determining the trajectory of a young person’s life. Yet about every 20 minutes in North Carolina, a child is born into poverty. A full-time, minimum-wage job today leaves a family well below the federal poverty level. Children are increasingly trapped in intergenerational poverty, and minority children are disproportionately likely to grow up poor, undereducated, unsafe, unhealthy and unemployed.
Child poverty is an epidemic, with long-term effects ranging from cognitive impairment to physical and emotional disability. If 1-in-5 children suffered from a single debilitating, life-limiting affliction, citizens would demand research into the cause, treatment for the symptoms and a cure for the ailment. The same attention must be paid to the poverty that is negatively affecting 20 percent of North Carolina’s children. The social and economic costs to the state of doing otherwise are staggering. Recent neuroscience and developmental research informs us that children’s brains are
constructed over time, and brain development is directly affected by environmental factors. Poverty often prevents families from investing the time and financial resources they would like in their children’s development, and the detrimental effects are literally built into the architecture of the children’s developing brains, limiting their long-term social, emotional, cognitive and physical health outcomes. Society must take advantage of the opportunities for positive intervention that begin at or before birth and continue throughout childhood, adolescence and even into early adulthood. The physical, environmental and economic health of a child’s neighborhood is also an important predictor for his or her long-term well-being. Poor schools, the presence of drugs, high crime and the lack of a viable business community all limit life opportunities for children in poor communities.
In order for Raleigh, North Carolina to maximize economic performance, every child’s full potential must be realized. Society must approach poverty as the structural issue it is, propelled by broad social and economic forces largely outside the control of poor families and children. This platform issue briefly lays out a framework of effective ways to reduce poverty in Raleigh, North Carolina: support families, strengthen communities and invest in children’s futures.
The meaning of poverty
‘Poverty’ does not have a single agreed meaning, and there are often bitter disputes about what poverty is and whether people can be said to be poor. Poverty is a moral concept, and its use provokes strong feelings. The suggestion that people are poor says that there is something about their situation which is unacceptable, and that something ought to be done about it.
The idea of poverty is used in many ways. It can refer to material deprivation, economic circumstances and social relationships.
Material deprivation. People who are poor are people who need something, like food, housing, or clothing. The problem of ‘fuel poverty’, for example, happens because people are not able to heat or cool their houses. But need is not always enough. Poverty can also be seen as multiple deprivation -not the lack of one thing, like fuel, but of several. People experience poverty, on this definition, from a constellation of different needs, which occur separately or together. More generally still, poverty can be seen as a very low standard of living circumstances in which people are not able to use or get the kinds of goods, amenities or activities that other people can get.
Economic position. People are treated as poor if they lack resources, especially income. Someone who is in need but who has enough income would not be thought of as ‘poor’. People can find themselves suddenly in great need – like the victims of flooding or, those who were severely affected by Raleigh’s recent tornado disaster – but they do not necessarily become ‘poor’. The identification of poverty with income is often interpreted in terms of economic inequality. People whose income is significantly below that of the people around them are said to be at an ‘economic distance’ which cuts them off from full participation in society. (The median is the middle point of the income distribution.)
In the press and ordinary speech, people are often thought of as poor when they are receiving benefits; the problem of poverty is seen as a problem of ‘dependency’, and critics of the welfare system have argued that there is a ‘dependency culture’. Another view sees poverty in terms of lack of rights and power: people experience poverty if they do not have the right to use the resources which are around them. I ascribe to the latter.
Poverty and social exclusion: In much of the United States, the problems are now understood in terms of ‘social exclusion’. Social exclusion is not the same thing as poverty, but the concepts are closely related. People are said to be excluded when they are not part of the networks which support most people in ordinary life – networks of family, friends, community and employment. There are many reasons why people might be excluded which are not directly linked to poverty: ex-prisoners, people with AIDS, people with learning disabilities or psychiatric patients are all at risk of exclusion. But poverty is liable to lead to exclusion, because it impairs the ability of people to participate in society. Peter Townsend writes of the poor that:
“Their resources are so seriously below those commanded by the average individual or family that they are, in effect, excluded from ordinary living patterns, customs and activities.”
Lent Carr has described social exclusion as “a short hand label for what can happen when individuals or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown.” This identifies exclusion primarily with multiple deprivation. Some people do have multiple problems, but a more typical pattern is the “web of deprivation”, a position in which people experience different permutations of problems, often freeing themselves from one problem only to run into another.Exclusion is a broader, and more complex, set of problems. It includes not only deprivation, but problems of social relationships, including stigma (especially for ex-felons), social isolation and failures in social protection.The National Anti-Poverty Network has taken the position that local anti-poverty action falls within the general remit of social inclusion strategies.
Although it is true to say that consideration of poverty has to be included as part of strategies against exclusion, it is no less true to say that exclusion has to be considered as part of a strategy against poverty. The concepts overlap. There are aspects of each concept which are distinct; there are also aspects which coincide directly.
The problems of poverty: In any of its many meanings, poverty has important implications for the people who experience it, and the idea of poverty is associated with a broad constellation of problems. It is unusual for any poor person to suffer from all of the problems at once: more typical is the pattern of the ‘web of deprivation’, in which any combination is possible, and one problem is overcome only for people to face still another. The main issues -material deprivation, lack of resources and the problems of social exclusion – remain, but there are other important problems associated with them.
The most important are probably…
•health The correlation between poverty and ill health is well established. The Black Report in 1980 concluded that the main influence on inequalities in health lay in the material circumstances and conditions in which people live. More recent research has only served to confirm this. Nearly half the deaths which take place in Southeast Raleigh can be seen as premature; this reflects the intensity of poverty in the city.
•housing Access to good housing depends mainly on choice, and choice is strongly affected by economic position. Even in social housing, there is a tendency for the better housing to go to the people who are most able to wait for it, who tend to be the better-off tenants. Equally, the quality of housing depends to a large extent on the incomes of people who live in it; problems of damp reflect access to heat, social isolation reflects access to transport.
•education Poverty is often associated with low educational attainment. The reasons are complex: they include the disadvantage experienced by children, lack of opportunity, low expectations, the exercise of choice by better-off parents, and underresourcing.
•security A lack of resources makes it difficult to cope with difficult circumstances, but it also makes it more likely that problems will arise. Poor people are more likely than others to be the victims of crime.
Groups in poverty
Poverty affects a wide range of people in different circumstances. Here, the principal groups are Older citizens of District C. Although pensions have improved considerably since the 1970s, when most of the poor people in the United States were pensioners, incomes in retirement are still very limited, particularly for the oldest group of pensioners. The combination of low income and often declining health means that there are still substantial problems for a considerable proportion of pensioners.
Unemployment. Engagement in the formal economy is crucial for income and status. Many of the problems of other groups, such as single parents or younger disabled people, stem directly from the lack of employment prospects. Low pay. Low pay is not, perhaps surprisingly, a major cause of poverty in itself, mainly because many low-paid workers are part of a larger family unit, but also because benefit levels are so low that even low wages rarely compare. The key problems, identified by Citizens of Southeast Raleigh are the general problems of low income; overcoming barriers to work; getting out of traps caused by the benefits system; and access to employment rights. Raleigh has many low paid workers, and there may be people who are ‘sub-employed’ – moving in and out of marginal, informal and low paid work. When the Low Pay General Contractors were placing there low bids for City backed Construction jobs, it has been a general practice to hire un-documented immigrant workers over poor black and white documented citizens of Raleigh, N.C. However, there is a lack of hard data which could help to identify the living and working conditions which this implies locally. The best indication currently available comes from the figures for the United States Census Report and Council Tax Benefit Data, claimed by households which including earners. This is a low percentage of all District C’s households with earners, which seems implausibly low; the low takeup of these benefits by earners means that the true figure could be double once viewed in its totality of data recording.
Single parents. Most single parents are women; most are divorced, rather than never-married. Single parents are most vulnerable to poverty when their children are youngest, because responsibility for very young children makes it difficult if not impossible to obtain work. 26.7% of children aged 0-4 in Southeast Raleigh live in single parent households, compared with 16.3% in North Raleigh.
Disabled people. Disability is associated with higher living costs, lower incomes and the problems of social exclusion. Responses to the consultation also pointed to pressure on family life, the difficulties of physical access, and the problems of coping with the punitive operation of the benefits system, which have caused “distress” and “trauma” locally. Most disability is found among older people, and it can be difficult to distinguish the problems of poverty which are associated with disability from the general problems of low income in old age. For younger people, sickness and disability have major effects on employability; much of the growth in the numbers of people registered as ‘permanently sick’ is accounted for by the lack of employment prospects for people whose work is likely to be disrupted by illness.
People who live in poor areas. It is not true that most poor people live in poor areas. Focusing on poor areas identifies some concentrations of people with problems, but most of the people are not poor. However, everyone in a poor area is affected by the concentration of poverty. A lack of resources in a community often means that there are fewer resources and facilities in the area. Shops and local facilities cannot survive economically. There is often a deterioration in the environment for everyone. For this cause Carr has created a working plan to re-tool amenities for Southeast Raleigh, build infrastructure, curve crime and invigorate the “want-to-do” attitude of eradicating poverty (with governmental help) for ones’ self as a citizen of District C.
This is a brief excerpt of Dr.Carr’s “Eradication of Poverty Initiative.” The full report and strategic plan will be unveiled before council once Lent Carr has been elected District C’s Councilman Elect 2011.
Visit Lent Carr’s Campaign Web-site here