Part 2 of a three-part series by Geneva Kay Smith, NECIC Community Organizer.
As I said in Part 1 of this series, I grew up in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. My expectations of life were reflective of what I saw: learning to be happy with what was available, and being comfortable with not achieving more. People have a tendency to get stuck in a mindset when they don’t see change. Once I realized there were other views, other opportunities, my desire was to have something greater, not just for myself, but for my community.
When you look at strengthening a neighborhood and its people, there are multiple factors that must weigh in: economic, racial, social, and more. Due to learned behavior, social expectations, and the cycle of poverty, it’s a hard road to success for many of us, but we are striving for something better.
It’s a common misconception that individuals receiving government assistance are not contributing to the economy. In fact, according to Sharlene Neumann, Director of Richland County Job and Family Services, “In our own county, the majority of people receiving food assistance are working.”* Out of 21,000 people receiving assistance, 17,430 of them are employed.
In this county, the wages are too low to support a family. People want to work, and are working, but can’t get by on minimum wage. According to the NECIC North End Community Economic Development Plan, which quotes Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the only case where Ohio’s minimum wage would qualify as a living wage is when a family of two adults, with no dependent children, both work full-time jobs.
Everyone deserves to be paid an adequate living wage. Think about it, if you found a homeless person, would you offer him the bones from your plate, or would you offer him a complete meal? We should not expect others to live off of crumbs, but support them and encourage employers to pay a fair wage.
How do we do this? By supporting businesses that pay a fair wage, and voting with our dollars. And speaking of voting, if you want real change, that’s the path to it. More on that in Part 3.
*Mansfield News Journal, Oct. 3, 2015