“For humanitarian, economic and physical reasons, all of us should be concerned with the plight of our neighbors living in poverty,” Lorain Crowl of Upstate Continuum of Care says. “In our community, the best way to help address poverty is to take a hand-up not a hand-out approach.”
More than 5,000 Upstate children in families have no home, Crowl says. Many of those temporarily reside with friends or family, sleep in cars or other places not meant for habitation.
Upstate CoC strives to end homelessness by providing safe, sustainable and affordable homes and support services across Greenville, Anderson, Spartanburg, Oconee and Pickens counties.
Crowl urges community members to advocate for higher-paying jobs, affordable housing near metropolitan areas and a more-robust public transportation system.
“Currently, people making minimum wage can only afford monthly rent of around $375 a month,” she says. “Right now, individuals would need to make $14.50 an hour to afford a one-bedroom apartment at the current fair market rent of $755.”
While clothing and food are helpful, those in poverty need more than donations to improve their lives. And, Crowl said, ending poverty in Greenville requires more than government programs and the work of nonprofits.
“It will take everyone in our community to make it happen — public/private partnerships that take on job training and the increase of wages, municipalities that are not afraid to tackle the hard truths of the effects of gentrification and be willing to do something about it, and citizens holding their government officials feet to the fire and demand funding and support for ending child hunger and substandard housing,” Crowl says.
Many people living in poverty lack the economic stability and resources needed for self-sustaining success. “All people need to experience the dignity that comes with being able to contribute to their own well-being,” she says.
Toni Taylor, founder of Circles South Carolina, says that “if you can move families out of poverty, if you can help those who want to get out of poverty, then that changes a child’s life.”
As a professional life coach, Taylor saw an opportunity to partner with families in poverty through relationship building. “I understand how coaching helps people change from where they are now to where they want to be,” Taylor says.
According to Taylor, Circles South Carolina allows individuals to lead their lives out of poverty alongside two allies, who are successful middle- to upper-class people, for 18 months. The program pairs families with volunteers who are willing to coach them and cheer them onto success.
“I see this program as a great way to move people out of poverty because it lifts them up. It doesn’t give them a handout,” she says. “There are no handouts. It’s a hand up.”
Greenvillians who live in poverty have skills and talents to share with the whole community, but they are often unreached.
“What we need to do is find a way to provide a hand up for those who want to change their lives so that they can be contributing members of society — not only contributing but successful members of society,” Taylor says.
Did you know?
The 20,247 children in Greenville Country living in poverty would not fit in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena (seating capacity 19,000).
Source: Kids Count Data Center numbers for 2017
Greenville Women Giving
Greenville Women Giving, a women’s charitable group under the umbrella of the Community Foundation, works to identify and fund nonprofit Greenville County organizations in the areas of arts, education, environment, and health and human services.
GWG takes a holistic approach to addressing poverty through multi-faceted granting. “We try to grant so that we have 360 degrees of coverage in growing a greater Greenville, making this a better place,” co-chair Emelia Stephenson says.
GWG currently has approximately 550 members. Membership is open to women willing to commit to giving $1,200 per year for three years, $1,000 of which goes toward grant funding, with the balance going toward operational expenses.
“Every year, we do education opportunities that are open to our members and their guests in the community that do address community issues,” Stephenson says. “We bring in the experts to do the talking, so that’s the way that the public can avail itself of pragmatic steps as well as be educated in the enormity or the breadth of the problem.”
GWG on Sept. 18 held its first education event to address poverty in Greenville. The next event, “Building Resilience from Adversity,” will be on Oct. 15. For more information or to reserve a spot, visit greenvillewomengiving.org or call 864-361-1393.