The U.S. Census Department reported yesterday that the 2010 poverty rate has risen to 15.1% of the population. With 2010 U.S. population at 308.4 million this means that over 46.5 million people in the U.S. are living in poverty! This rate is the highest it has been since 1993. Just since 2007, the rate has increased by 2.6%. In this land of great opportunity and resource, I find these numbers horrifying. Doesn’t it just beg a systemic question of economic justice?
As the economic downturn continues on, we are seeing the impact at Habitat. More than ever, our work is needed to help families that are seeking suitable, decent places to live and to help build wealth for the future and to rise above the effects that living in poverty brings to all aspects of life.
The families we work alongside in the building of their homes are in a marginal place economically, but their desire for stability for their family makes Habitat a life-changing opportunity for them.
To see the Census Department press release on 2010 poverty statistics, go to: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb11-157.html
I stopped by one of our build sites a couple Saturdays ago and had a chance to chat with our homeowner-to-be. I wish you all could have been there to just see the joy that Habitat has brought into his life. It was so evident. All of our volunteers and donors help make that possible. It really is precious.
Our homeowner has immigrated to the United States from a former Soviet Republic. He spoke of how thrilled he was to be in America and how only in America could something like Habitat happen for him. His family is Christian and they were very involved in church life, which he kept telling us that the Communists didn’t like.
The freedom to practice whatever religion we choose is an internationally recognized human right. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” (See the whole document here.)
I know I take that religious freedom for granted. The conversation that afternoon reminded me how blessed I am to be able to live out my Christian faith without fear of persecution or even imprisonment. It also reminds me of the many who don’t have that freedom and my need to pray for them and to help support outreach efforts in those areas.
Once again, Habitat is a blessing, not just for those acquiring homes through our program, but equally for those of us who participate as volunteers, staff, and donors—as we tangibly feel that we are God’s hands and feet sharing God’s love as it is intended to be shared.