The fight against poverty in the United States has a new proponent — President Barack Obama. Not only is his presidency an historic occasion, but he also brings his own blueprint for change.
At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we see firsthand the impact poverty has on individuals and families. It is heartbreaking to see so many people in need. Mr. Obama has a plan to decrease the poverty rate in this country. He promises to invest more than $1 billion in transitional jobs and career programs over the next five years to help low-income Americans succeed in the workforce, increase benefits for working parents, raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011, provide tax relief for low- and middle-income workers, and work to increase the supply of affordable housing.
Here in Michigan, the unemployment rate is climbing higher and higher. Right now, it stands at 9.6 percent. That’s compared to the national rate of 7.2 percent. Michiganders make up a large majority of the unemployed citizens of this country. As a result, DRMM and other homeless shelters are overcrowded. Whether it’s for food, clothing or heat, people who can’t support themselves turn to us for help. It could be your friends, families, neighbors or colleagues who are suffering right now. Even President Obama has experienced some of the hardships that people are going through today. When he was a child, his mother briefly received governmental assistance to help feed her children.
Think about this: What has occurred during your day by 3:00 p.m.? Chances are you did not wake up hungry because there was no food in the refrigerator. When you flipped on your light switch, your electricity was most likely working. Unfortunately, that is not the case for thousands of people in this country today. By 3:00 p.m. on any given day, all 250 of the shelter beds at DRMM are filled and another 300 people are waiting outside, hoping to find a place to rest and nourish their bodies and souls.
From 2000-2007, the number of people living in poverty increased by about six million. That is heartbreaking. Hopefully, with the leadership of new President Barack Obama, this country can meet the challenges that lie ahead. I pray that God will guide him as he embarks on this journey.