If you're not engaged with poverty at some level, 'You're privileged' - Generocity Philly


Jun. 14, 2016 12:58 pm

If you’re not engaged with poverty at some level, ‘You’re privileged’

That's what Helen Gym said at a Young Involved Philadelphia panel on systematic poverty and inequality in the city. Here are some takeaways from the event.

Nyron Crawford (standing left), Dwayne Wharton, Cynthia Figueroa, Katie Colaneri and Councilwoman Helen Gym.

(Photo by Tony Abraham)

Poverty can’t be solved through charity or policy. It has to be guided by the communities that are impacted by it.

Community organizing was a solution Councilwoman Helen Gym proposed at a recent Young Involved Philadelphia panel on poverty and inequality in the city, where poverty rates are as high as 26.3 percent.

“I don’t believe poverty is an individualized condition,” Gym said. “Poverty is the result of the dividing up of resources in an incredibly unequal and unfair way.”

With rates as high as 26.3 percent, Gym said engaging with poverty in nearly inevitable. And if you’re not engaged with poverty in any capacity, at any level, at any point in your day as a Philadelphian?

“You’re privileged,” the councilwoman said.

“The hardest part of my day is when I drive from my house in Mt. Airy to North Philadelphia,” said Congreso President and CEO Cynthia Figueroa. The nonprofit provides services to Latino communities in the city. “The folks who are on the street corner or the kids walking by themselves to school — that’s when I’m like, ‘Are we working with that family?'”

The cycle of poverty will never be broken by focusing solely on a single issue like food security or reentry or education. The solution has to be holistic.

"These issues are interconnected. You should be looking for opportunities to not solve one thing but multiple things simultaneously."
Dwayne Wharton

“We’re talking about food access. Wage inequality. We want people to make a livable wage so they can buy healthy foods. But if you don’t have a kitchen that’s working, how can you prepare food for your families?” asked Dwayne Wharton, executive director of external affairs at The Food Trust. “These issues are interconnected. You should be looking for opportunities to not solve one thing but multiple things simultaneously.”

From our Partners

And while there are barriers that keep systematically impoverished communities from breaking the cycle of poverty, the most common answer is to address education.

“Education has been the one area where opportunity has most presented itself as a way out of poverty,” Figueroa said. “But education alone is not the answer.”

The conversation around poverty and inequality is not a polite one, Gym said. It can’t be.

“This is a conversation that is angry,” the councilwoman said, raising her voice. “There’s such a focus on welfare from the bottom. That is the most racist way to look at welfare.”

Instead, she said, we should be analyzing what’s happening at “the top” — things like government subsidies and tax breaks for the wealthy.

Besides, said Gym, money from the impending soda tax will allow the city to “launch and embark on the biggest anti-poverty initiative” ever seen.

“It’s called universal Pre-K.”


From our Partners

As protests and unrest grip the nation, how should Philly nonprofits respond?

Plugged-in and nonprofit: Nominate up to 10 people to be considered for inclusion in our ‘RealLIST Connectors’

Nonprofits find a way, and now must chart a future course


Generocity Philly

¿Cómo preparamos a estudiantes sin ninguna historia familiar de educación universitaria?


Brandywine Health Foundation

Senior Program Officer

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA

Episcopal Community Services

Digital Marketing Manager

Apply Now
Philadelphia (currently remote)

Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence

Human Resources Director

Apply Now

While confronting the impacts of COVID-19, don’t forget that the arts can be part of the solution

Time to think about 2021

Nonprofit AF: This is the wake-up call for nonprofits and foundations to get political


Generocity Philly

How do we prepare first-generation graduates for college?


Urban Technology Project

AmeriCorps Digital Service Fellow

Apply Now

Heifer International

Director of Philanthropy, Mid-Atlantic Region

Apply Now

Public Health Management Corporation

Special Education Teacher

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Generocity