Today I heard it reported again.
During an interview with one of the major networks, an official with an inner-city economic development network made a simple, unsurprising comment.
"Eighty-nine percent of the people evacuated from the city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina had been employed before the storm," she reported.
Her concern had to do with the market opportunities in low-income communities and new economic development. But the statistics line up almost exactly with our periodic surveys of the people who come seeking assistance here at Central Dallas Ministries.
Our most recent, admittedly unscientific survey told us that of the people who visit our Emergency Resource Center in East Dallas, 89% are either working, have worked full-time but are now in retirement or suffer from some sort of disability. Of the slightly less than 11% of the unemployed, over half of these folks are between jobs and do not intend to remain without work.
Lots of people don't get this.
Most poor people--the vast majority of the poor--work.
They do not earn enough to make a decent living, but they do work.
They don't usually receive benefits, like health insurance, paid vacations, professional training for advancement or retirement plans, but they do work.
Anyone who wants to get into the reality of economic and day-to-day family life at or near the bottom needs to comprehend this basic fact of life among the poor.
When surveying the people who show up at our door, we always find that in many households there are multiple persons working.
Some poor people, as is the case with some rich people, are lazy and don't want to work. But this is not the major problem we face today in our cities.
It is clear to me that since the market will not provide adequate wages for these hard-working fellow citizens, the collective expression of the nation's heart must. Government initiatives that reward work need to be beefed up.
Work must be a requirement--no hand outs to able-bodied Americans. But the promise of the nation has always been that if one works hard and plays by the rules, a decent, dignified life would be the result.
My faith tells me that we must not settle for less than this.
The poor work.
We must insure that their work pays off.
Announcement from Duke Memorial UMC
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