Mary Wilson of The Supremes with ABCD President/CEO John J. Drew; Sarah Ann Shaw, tireless community activist and Boston’s first African-American television reporter, and Hubie Jones, renowned social justice leader, prior to the ABCD Community Awards Dinner. Wilson headlined the event at which Shaw and Jones were inducted into the ABCD Hall of Fame.
In mid-September, a reporter called ABCD to ask about poverty. The U.S. Census had just released its annual poverty statistics showing that in Massachusetts, from 2013 to 2014, the poverty level remained basically unchanged while median income rose slightly.
Was this good news, she inquired? Was this a positive outcome for ABCD and its work to combat poverty, to provide those in need with a step onto the ladder of economic opportunity?
Unfortunately, the answer was a resounding “no.” Low and moderate income families are struggling more than ever. The much-heralded economic recovery from the 2008 recession did not reach them. For many, incomes have fallen in recent years, while costs escalate.
Economists state that the gap between rich and poor in America is now at a level not seen since the Great Depression. The slight rise in median income reported in the Census comes from increased wealth for those at the top of the ladder.
We are living in a time of economic stagnation with a widening gap between the haves and have nots. In Massachusetts we have 15,000 millionaires while 11.6 percent of residents or 757,235 people live below the poverty level of $24,250 for a family of four. In pockets of concentrated inner-city poverty, 40 to 50 percent of mostly African-American and Latino residents live in poverty.
We propose a national renewal of America’s long-time commitment to the millions of poor elderly, children and disadvantaged families struggling against all odds to make a better life for themselves and the upcoming generation. We propose a national pledge to combat poverty and provide solid opportunity for those seeking a foothold on the ladder of economic opportunity. We propose a comprehensive, multi-pronged effort by government, private sector and community groups to provide access to affordable housing, living-wage jobs and education tied to real jobs and careers on a scale that will lift lives out of poverty. The need is overwhelming and growing daily.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew meets with John J. Drew, ABCD President/CEO, and Sharon Scott-Chandler, ABCD Executive Vice President, during a visit to ABCD.
With housing costs at an all-time high and affordable housing an oxymoron, homelessness in Massachusetts and nationwide remains an intractable problem. On September 15, the Boston Globe reported that in Boston there were 1,259 homeless families living in hotels and motels and 3,233 families in shelters.
At ABCD we have seen the numbers we serve increase from 95,000 in 2010 to 108,000 this year. We see the face of poverty in women heading households and seeking living-wage employment, children in our Head Start classrooms, homeless teenagers in our summer jobs program, immigrants from many lands filling wait-lists for English classes so they may qualify for jobs and educational opportunities. We strive to hold the line, triaging our neighbors to services and programs that help hold their lives together.
ABCD and its network do what it takes, day in and day out, family by family, neighborhood by neighborhood, to improve lives in our communities, our state, our nation. We provide opportunities for education, training, child care, Earned Income Tax Credits that give an economic lease on life. We offer heating assistance and advocate in housing court for tenants facing homelessness. We provide summer and winter youth programs including three high schools this year. We work aggressively to see our youngsters graduate from high school and pursue higher education and vocational training opportunities that mean a permanent pathway out of poverty. We advocate for programs and policies that offer hope, opportunity and the chance for a better life for those in need.
ABCD thanks our outstanding volunteers, including the dedicated members of the ABCD Board of Directors and all our neighborhood advisory groups, our many supporters and our committed, hard-working staff members. All of you – working together – truly make the difference as ABCD strives to provide opportunities for those in need to seek life goals they once considered unattainable and to put individuals and families on the road to stability and success.