Poverty Hits Close to Home

9 years 9 months 2 weeks ago December 10, 2006 Dec 10, 2006 Sunday, December 10 2006 Sunday, December 10, 2006 11:13:03 PM CST in News

They say people with low-incomes are often perceived as lazy or not hardworking. This is often times not the case, but rather these families are doing everything in their power to meet daily needs.

Central Missouri Community Action, or CMCA, helps more than 14,000 low-income individuals in mid-Missouri each year.

It says there is often a misplaced stigma given to people living in poverty.

"People in poverty are not just the people we see on the street corner, or the homeless that we see that we like to try and ignore. Families living in poverty are all around us," said Angela Hirsch with CMCA.

CMCA trys raising public awareness by running poverty simulations.  

"A poverty simulation is a three hour event that allows members of the community to walk a month in a family's shoes living in poverty,"  explained Hirsch.

Often times, the simulation serves as an eye-opening experience for participants.

"We show that families are working, and unfortunately a lot of the jobs that we have are not living wage jobs, and families are working two and three jobs just to try and make ends meet," said Hirsch.

CMCA offers a variety of services to help low-income families meet their needs.

These include:-energy assistance, job training, and head start, a program for children of low-income families.

"We help as many as we can, as much as we can," said Hirsch.

Grass roots organizing, or GRO takes a different approach.

It emphasizes education to activate low-income people to make their voice be heard.

"GRO is an organization that works to empower people, to change the situations, and our membership is families of low income here in Mid-Missouri," said Mary Hussmann with GRO "We are not a charity organization, we are a justice organization."

An organization that pushed for the raising of minimum wage, and is still fighting for Medicaid reforms.

"If you're sick, you can't go to work. If you're sick, you can't feel good about yourself, you feel depressed," said Hussmann. "If you're sick a lot of times you'll lose your housing."

GRO organizers say they don't just sit around and talk about problems low-income families face.

"You can expect to see us on the streets." said Hussmann "Not very much of our work happens here where our office is, it happens out where the people are."

Even with different ways of helping mid- Missourians with low-incomes, GRO and CMCA have similar outlooks on poverty.

"Poverty is not a dirty word, it is not a social disease, it is a circumstance in which people live, and many of them not by choice," said Hirsch.

After six years in mid-Missouri, GRO has about 360 low-income members

Member dues are $60 per year per family.

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