January is Poverty Awareness Month, a month-long initiative to raise awareness and call attention to the growth of poverty in our country.
Across the state, Catholic Charities West Virginia staff and volunteers meet people and families daily who are impacted by poverty. Since poverty looks different from one person to another, it can be challenging to recognize.
Take the “Smith” family, for example. Both parents have jobs and a stable income. And yet, they and their two children had been living with extended family because they could not afford a home of their own. They were experiencing homelessness.
Consider the actual startup cost of finding a place to rent. You need to save up a security deposit and at least your first month of rent. You also need furniture — a bed for your children and a table for your family’s meals; cleaning supplies to help keep your family healthy; dishes, bedding, and towels.
Understandably, the Smiths had trouble saving enough to get started in their own place.
Many families are faced with similar struggles. The minimum wage in West Virginia ($8.75/hour) means that two earners, like the Smiths, can make $36,400 if both are working full time. Rent for a 2-bedroom apartment takes about one-third of that gross income. Once you factor in taxes, childcare, clothing, and food, there’s not much left.
The Smiths came to us during a vulnerable time. They asked for help and we met this family with dignity and compassion. In addition to helping them with their security deposit, we invited other members of the community to help out as well. The response was overwhelming and the family received a table, chairs, twin bed, full bed, sofa, dresser, bath towels, dishes, and bedding.
Living in poverty can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness. Pope Francis, in his message for World Day of the Poor, said, “Let us ask ourselves: what is demanded of us as Christians in the face of this reality? We are required to nurture tomorrow’s hope by healing today’s pain.” We are grateful and humbled by this call to serve!