People who are struggling with homelessness and facing poverty are often the hardest-working people out there; finding a job is not the simple solution some may believe that it is.
"Working poor" should be an oxymoron, but it's unfortunately all too common. Fortunately, though it will take deep work, it can also be resolved.
Poverty and homelessness are difficult issues to resolve because they are in fact often the result of the collusion of several factors. All of these factors have to be adequately addressed before the issues will be alleviated. The factors that Jeff Moles specifically mentions in regards to the working poor and working homeless with whom he works are:
Lack of adequately paying jobs, even when the person works multiple jobs and 40+ hours per week.
Lack of access to adequate education to excel beyond their current income level.
Having a criminal record that may be years old, and not necessarily relevant to the job for which the individual is applying.
How does it happen that we have a society in which individuals can work 60+ hours a week and still not be able to afford what are considered basic needs?
What does the Bible have to say about work and rest? What does that say about our role in an economy-driven society in which people can work so diligently, and still be unable to attain basic needs?
How might social and legal processes need to be reconfigured in order that individuals who have been convicted of crimes yet served their retributive time have a genuine opportunity to begin their lives anew?
What will it take us to better build relationships across socioeconomic lines which are focused on knowing and uplifting one another, rather than on acts of charity disconnected from genuine human interaction and connection?
Now. What can we do?
Read & Ponder:
Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed which, while written in in 1999, is still considered a premiere sociological treatise on understanding the realities of remaining poor despite working well beyond full-time.
Why Don't They Just Get a Job? Written by Cincinnati Works president Liane Phillips, the book traces the organization's history in striving to alleviate poverty and joblessness by better understanding, connecting, and dissolving barriers between employers and individuals seeking to work.
Take This Bread, Sara Miles' memoir on beginning a food pantry out of her church in San Francisco, and how from the beginning they struggled both to address the authentic needs in the community and to expand the church beyond its physical walls.
Volunteer at a shelter, food bank, meal pantry, or soup kitchen which includes those receiving services as part of the volunteer staff, hired staff, and even on their board.
If you run, are employed at, or sit on the board of a shelter, food bank, meal pantry, or soup kitchen, intentionally advocate for and invite those receiving services to be a part of the volunteer staff, hired staff, and on the board.
Use programs such as Room In the Inn, which provide trainings to churches and programs on how to better understand, relate to, and connect with individuals in poverty and poverty-related circumstances.
If you and/or your organization are in a position to hire individuals from low-income backgrounds or are homeless, make an intentional effort to do so. This includes committing to learning about barriers that low-income and homeless individuals have to maintaining employment, and actively addressing and working with them. Advocate for partner agencies to do the same. You can find support for this work through programs such as ' Bridges Out of Poverty.
Many "job development" programs are connected to entry-level and/or low-wage jobs that have no opportunity for advancement or greater earning potential. Write to your city council, local legislators, and congresspersons to advocate for greater focus on job development for low-income individuals that centers around educational development and career advancement.
Learn about social enterprises such as FreshBox Catering and Hot Chicken Takeover, and nonprofits such as The King's Kitchen & Bakery, which employ homeless and low-income individuals with missions towards helping them elevate their socioeconomic lives. Find and support the existence and development of similar organizations in your community.