Commonwealth Foundation Podcast with Opportunity House

Podcast: Profiles in Perseverance, Overcoming Poverty
AUGUST 25, 2014 | by ELIZABETH STELLE

 

“Bobbi was struggling. A single mom of two kids, she had a job but no place to live. Thanks to Opportunity House in Reading, Pennsylvania, Bobbi found a home and eventually advanced her career by becoming an operations manager for the non-profit organization.

Tracy was homeless when she first came to Opportunity House’s shelter. Today, Tracy works three jobs to support her children, and she’s a school crossing guard. Her kids are finishing high school and are on track to attend college.

What do these success stories have in common? Both show that moving out of poverty takes a lot of support.

We spoke to Opportunity House’s president, Modesto Fiume, to find out how they are overcoming poverty in Reading, one of the nation’s poorest cities. Modesto explains, “It takes a lot of commitment. It takes a lot of hard work. It’s not something that happens overnight—there’s no quick fix here.”

Lifting families out of poverty isn’t only on Modesto’s mind. Key players at all levels of government are trying to get a handle on poverty.

In Washington, D.C., Congressman Paul Ryan released a book and policy paper focused on reforming welfare. His Opportunity Grant combines eleven different programs into one funding stream for states. Most critically, benefits are tied to work requirements, because Ryan and others recognize that work is about more than just a paycheck. Work provides purpose and builds self-worth.

In Harrisburg, the House Majority Policy Committee, led by Rep. Dave Reed, is spearheading the Gateways out of Poverty initiative. The committee spoke with the poor and community organizations to indentify common barriers and areas where public policy can make a positive impact.  

Among those focus areas is Benefits That Work, where lawmakers are working to address the disjointed system of benefits that punishes families for working more hours or receiving a promotion.”

 

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