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Monday, June 3, 2013

PORT HURON -- POVERTY MAGNET, OR BEACON OF HOPE?


Recently there have been articles in our local press that complain our fair city has become a destination point for those seeking supportive social services.  Our city manager cited “liberal social programs in the city” as one of the three biggest problems that drag us down.  It’s implied that those who just want a low income welfare life are encouraged to make Port Huron their home, because so much is done for them here.  A social worker in Sault Ste. Marie sends an alcoholic on a bus Port Huron bound, because those caught in the welfare social strata have it so good in our town?  Could it be that this woman had family here also?  What’s the rest of her story?

Perhaps, as a few reported anecdotes have suggested, some people do move here because we take care of those in need.  We certainly have many programs, agencies, people and churches that readily give a helping hand.  I know a great number of community volunteers involved in various aspects of this effort.    But people at loose ends tend to move most to where they have friends and family.  Many volunteers elsewhere also work to serve the poor and relieve poverty--in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Detroit, and throughout the state.  We are not unique, and we are not a poverty magnet.



he skyrocketing poverty rate--up to 26%--we’ve experienced, is not because we invite it, or certain people like to wallow in it, but because our community, even more than many across the state, has been battered by withering job loss.  Since my family moved here [from Sanilac Co.] in 1993 to work in the medical community, there has been a constant stream of factories shuttering, closing up shop, or moving south to Mexico, the sunbelt and overseas—to where bigger profits could be made.  The number one cause of our poverty is job loss.
 
Words of Pope Paul VI  -- And if you want true progress, work for justice
 

ur poor are primarily our own people, who used to have jobs with a livable wage.   We’re not a dumping ground for the poor. We’re a Blue Water skeleton crew abandoned by manufacturers who’ve jumped ship for greener cash horizons.  I’d like to see an account of how many have lost jobs in our town in the past 40 years, how many jobs have taken their place, and how smaller or larger their pay scale.  There must be plenty of workers who moved from here when their jobs died, and not finding any elsewhere, have returned.  Do we call this an influx of the poor?

Yes, we have too much rental [instead of resident owned] housing.  Yes, our schools are stressed.  Yes homelessness, joblessness, and poverty are big problems in Port Huron.  Let’s not respond by becoming tight-fisted.   Taking money away from heating system repairs in two of our homeless shelters is not a sign of Port Huron progress.  Our good history of generosity towards those in need is the Gospel way to achieve a better way of life for the community as a whole.

Port Huron should be proud to be called a beacon of hope for the poor.  The hope is that we will again become a powerhouse of creative work and resourcefulness--and that those with the power and wealth will also see the light, share the investment.  We are one of the fresh water capitols of the world.  Our unique geographic location and abundant natural resources gives us a history of being one of the most inventive areas in the nation—cars, boats and homes—and a breadbasket of agriculture as well.  It will happen again, if we maintain and nourish a spirit of generosity and ingenuity.
 
Photo by Dawn Dasharion --Port Huron
 

What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?" says the LORD. "I am sick of your burnt offerings [of excess $ money] of rams and the fat of fattened cattle.  Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.   Isaiah I: 11, 17


 


Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

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