A simple definition of poverty is a lack of basic resources that leads to insecurity about the future. In her classic book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Dr. Ruby Payne lists 8 resources people in poverty lack. Resource #6 is a lack of support systems.
SUPPORT SYSTEMS include friends, family, and backup resources a person can access during times of needs. The lack of these external resources contribute to keeping a person in poverty.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Who do you turn to when you need help?
- When you have a sick child, who do you depend on to take care of that child so you can go to work?
- When you have an unexpected car or home repair, where do you go for assistance?
- Who do you turn to when money is short and the baby needs medicine?
- Where do you go for advice, or help in getting a job?
- Who do you look to for suggestions on how to dress and talk and act during an interview?
- Who helped you navigate all the paperwork for admission into college and financial aid for school?
- If you needed a place for you and your family to stay while you were between jobs or between homes, where would you go?
Support systems include financial support, emotional support, spiritual support, knowledge/advice support, and on and on and on.
Support systems are those things that if you have them, you take them for granted, but if you don’t have them, you don’t even know what you don’t have. Support sytems can serve as a safety net, or a spring board to a better school, better opportunity, or better job.
When I was in college I worked part-time as a youth-pastor at an inner-city church. (This would have been in the late 1980s.) One of the students in my ministry was an incredible brilliant guy. His family would fall under the category of generational poverty. This young man had a 4.0 grade average and scored in the 30s on his ACT. Because of his grades and his economic condition, he could have attended any college of his choice. But he did not know how to apply for college and financial aide. The public school he attended did not have any support system in place to help him, and I did not know anything about poverty and how to help him. I did not even know where to turn for help or even who to ask. The last I heard of this individual he was working a minimum wage, fast-food restaurant, job. I lost touch with him years ago. To be completely honest, I can’t even remember his name. My assumption is, wherever he is, he is still in poverty.
I failed him. (I was only 19 to 20 years old at the time.)
The system failed him.
He lacked the support systems necessary to get him out of his situation.
I have vowed to do my best to never let that happen again to people I know and influence.