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Hero or Superhero? Jan Demers on bridging gaps, building futures

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Posted on March 7, 2016 |
By Jan Demers



She is a single mom with two young daughters. She was self-employed and contributing to our economy and hers; that is, until an accident derailed life and her income stopped.

He was working on starting a business. At the same time his gas was shut off. He is using electric heaters to keep warm and boiling his water on the stove for dishes and bathing.

They are a Palestinian family who lived for years in Syrian camps. They are professionals with bright children. They are seeking asylum. It would be more years than they have to become professionally certified in the U.S. They have so little and are working very long hours at low pay to rebuild their lives again.

Think on these.

Thirty people appointed by the governor. Thirty people who are recognized for their advocacy. Thirty people sitting in a room, going to subcommittee meetings. Thirty people talking about poverty.

“We are not going to end poverty by looking at programs in silos. We are taking a holistic approach to ending poverty by involving state agencies, private nonprofits, businesses and private citizens. All areas of state and local government should invest in ending poverty,” said Linda Ryan

Linda Ryan, executive director of Samaritan House in St. Albans, and Chris Curtis, an attorney for Vermont Legal Aid in Montpelier, co-chair the 30 member Council on Pathways from Poverty.

“What motivates this work is a desire to fundamentally change our approach to social and economic justice. We cannot continue to cut our way to prosperity. We need to invest in Vermonters,” Curtis said. “Many Vermonters find their housing and fuel bills rising while their wages have stagnated or benefits have been slashed. That is a recipe for economic disaster and leaves many families farther behind. Our work is focused on stabilizing and strengthening families in crisis. We know that these investments are prudent, they are effective anti-poverty measures, and they will save public dollars in the long-term.”

In November the Council on Pathways from Poverty submitted a 23-page report to Gov. Shumlin outlining recommendations “to respond to poverty in Vermont.”

The executive summary focuses on 10 prudent investments, which include housing, employment, childcare and a potential solution to the Medicaid budget. There is a section on new resources for consideration, citing a $2 occupancy fee on motels and hotels and a cap on Vermont’s pass-through of federal mortgage interest deductions. The last portion of the summary addresses nine policy initiatives for those experiencing trauma, health issues, transportation barriers, issues relating to those released from incarceration and housing issues.

Aristotle said, “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” We see that globally on the daily news. Locally we have a choice. Because “if you are not part of the solution …”

To read the entire report for yourself: http://bit.ly/1OI8jvL. 

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