Poverty has many faces.
It could be a single mother whose hours were cut short during the COVID-19 pandemic. It could be a family whose primary wage earner was furloughed. It could be a neighbor who has experienced a catastrophic medical problem that wiped out their savings.
Catholic Charities will host a virtual event to help show the many faces of poverty, and the trauma it can cause. The Catholic Charities kNOw Poverty Summit 2022: The Intersection of Poverty and Trauma will be held online from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on January 27. January is Poverty Awareness Month, noted by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.
Interested parishioners and those engaged in parish social ministries are especially welcome. Register and get more information at CatholicCharities.org/KnowPoverty.
“To solve a problem, we believe you must understand it, then share promising practices so we can do more to solve it,” President and CEO Cynthia N. Colbert said. “Every January, Catholic Charities invites nonprofit agencies, faith communities and others to join us at the kNOw Poverty Summit so we can work together even more effectively to help impoverished people find a path to self-sufficiency.”
During the kNOw Poverty Summit, keynote speaker Dr. Matthew Desmond, professor of sociology at Princeton University, will discuss the trauma of eviction, a fear-inducing issue plaguing many in the Archdiocese. Desmond is the principal investigator of The Eviction Lab, a team of researchers, students, and others who believe that a stable, affordable home is central to human flourishing and economic mobility.
The topic of eviction is a relevant one locally and nationally as many people have struggled to maintain employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Eviction Lab, Houston saw more than 55,000 eviction filings from the beginning of the pandemic through early December 2021. The Center for Disease Control’s moratorium on evictions ended in August 2021.
Many people in our community are just one unexpected expense away from having to choose between buying food, paying rent, or paying a bill.
The Kinder Institute’s 2021 Houston Area Survey found that 28 percent of respondents had difficulty paying for housing in the past year. Additionally, more than a third of residents indicated they would not be able to come up with $400 for an emergency expense.
In addition to Desmond’s keynote address, break-out sessions during the kNOw Poverty Summit will cover topics such as caring for clients in crisis with faith, self-care for providers, trauma-informed care, and the impact of poverty on physical and mental health.
“Catholic Charities is very mindful of the challenges facing the people we serve,” said Senior Vice President of Programs Natalie Wood. “When our dedicated case managers interact with our clients, they remember that many of them have experienced trauma during their lives. We remain sensitive to these issues, treating them with respect and dignity.”
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated poverty-related issues in the United States, and more people are needing assistance. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national median income decreased by 2.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, the first significant decline in nearly a decade. The national poverty rate also increased by one percentage point, to 11.4 percent. In Harris County, the poverty rate is 15 percent.
Catholic Charities has seen the increase in need on a local level, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Annual service numbers such as individuals served and pounds of food distributed have tripled when compared to pre-pandemic numbers.
In 2018, Pope Francis made an eloquent appeal to pay attention to the poverty around us, and to see the many ways in which someone might find themselves struggling in poverty.
“The cry of the people of God, the cry of the poor, is a kind of prayer; it opens our hearts and teaches us to be attentive,” Pope Francis said. “Let us be attentive, then, to all situations of injustice and to new forms of exploitation that risk making so many of our brothers and sisters miss the joy of the party.”