Civic leaders seek practical solutions at 2016 kNOw Poverty Summit

2016 poverty summit

Photos: Top left: Dr. Shane Lopez, PhD, noted researcher of hope, delivers the keynote address at the 2nd annual kNOw Poverty Summit at the University of St. Thomas. He’s shown with Cynthia N. Colbert, President & CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Top right: A panel on advocacy, government and direct service with panelists included Melody Barr, Deputy Assistant Director for Public Services and Public Facilities, City of Houston; Mandi Sheridan Kimball, Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs, Children At Risk; Natalie Wood, VP of Strengthening Families and Senior Services, Catholic Charities of Galveston-Houston; and moderated by Cynthia Cisneros, Vice President of Community Affairs, ABC 13 KTRK TV. Middle: Some of the 192 attendees are shown brainstorming practical ideas for fighting poverty on the local level. Bottom right: Summit organizer and emcee Matt Johns, Director of Mission Integration for Catholic Charities.

HOUSTON — One out of five people in Greater Houston lives in poverty – more than 1 million men, women and children. Public-policy advocates, social workers, educators, students and community leaders brainstormed ways to alleviate the problem at the kNOw Poverty Summit held on Thursday, January 28, at the University of St. Thomas.

It all starts with hope, they were told.

“Hope matters,” said Cynthia N. Colbert, President & CEO of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. “At Catholic Charities, our tagline is ‘Providing Help and Creating Hope.’ And friends, I’ve seen the power of hope. It re-engages the resilience that each of us has as a God-given gift.

“I’ve seen what happens have a person gets an apartment after they’ve lived on the streets or in a shelter. I’ve seen the power of hope when they’ve entered a job-training program or graduated from job-training skills. And I’ve seen the hope when they see their children succeeding in school.”

In his keynote address, Dr. Shane Lopez, Ph.D, senior Gallup scientist and leading researcher on hope, told the 192 attendees that in order for a person to break the cycle of poverty, they must have hope in that possibility. Giving hope, he said, is something leaders can and should do.

“Fifty percent of Americans are hopeful,” said Lopez, author of several books on the subject. “Fifty percent are not. … What we have to do is realize that one out of every two people we meet, every day, has hope and ambition, and the other person that we meet every day needs hope. We need to leverage the hope that we have to help them build a better life.”

Hope is infectious, he said. “The transmission of hope affects people to the third degree. Your hope affects (others) which then affects (still others) which then affects (even more). … You’re influencing people you haven’t even met. …180 of us go out tomorrow and have the best day we can, and produce the most hope that we can, and you are sharing hope with not just one person, but a multitude of people.”

The second-annual summit was hosted by Catholic Charities in partnership with the university, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, San Jose Clinic, Children at Risk, General One, The Metropolitan Organization of Houston and the Houston Food Bank. The event was generously underwritten by CHI St. Luke’s Health.

Other presenters included executives from The Metropolitan Organization, the City of Houston and partnering agencies. In afternoon “action sessions,” attendees brainstormed solutions to some of the real-world problems that charitable agencies face. Afterward, they were invited to choose their favorite ideas and volunteer to help make them happen.