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Posts Tagged ‘poor’

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Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff
El Jefe’s Taqueria is among the restaurants Cambridge is paying to serve hot and cold meals to homeless shelters.

One of the many interesting aspects of the Situation has been the way leaders in states and municipalities have taken matters into their own hands.

We know that individuals and both for-profit and nonprofit organizations are stepping up, but some government entities are, too. Across-the-board federal efforts would be better, especially if we don’t want to see New York suing Rhode Island and other such anomalies, but we’ll take what we can get.

Here’s a story about Cambridge, Mass., a city that some have called Moscow on the Charles mainly because it tries to help the poor.

Erin Kuschner, writes at the Globe‘s Boston.com, “With restaurants facing a sudden loss of revenue due to Gov. Baker’s mandated dine-in ban, and homeless shelters seeing a drop in volunteers helping to deliver and prepare food, the City of Cambridge came up with a solution to benefit both parties: Paying restaurants to make and deliver food to homeless shelters.

“The program launched Monday after the city reached out to both the Harvard Square Business Association and the Central Square Business Improvement District to help organize the initiative, with a goal of distributing roughly 1,800 to 2,000 meals to various shelters by the end of the week. …

“Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said that it has already brought roughly 15 restaurants on board to make meals for local shelters like the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and Y2Y, a youth homeless shelter that has seen many of its student volunteers leave following Harvard’s closure.

“ ‘It just made so much sense,’ Jillson said. ‘We were on board immediately.’ …

“Among the restaurants serving Harvard Square’s homeless shelters are Black Sheep Bagel, Cardullo’s, El Jefe’s Taqueria, Orinoco, Subway, and Veggie Grill. Jillson said that they have tried to provide a range of healthy meal options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

“The Central Square Business Improvement District partnered with PAGU to deliver meals to Bay Cove Human Services and the Cambridge YMCA.

‘We made our first delivery [Monday],’ said Michael Monestime, executive director at the Central Square Business Improvement District. ‘It was pretty humbling and sad at the same time. It’s hard enough being homeless on any given day, and then under these circumstances it’s even more difficult.’ …

“In addition to providing hot and cold meals to those experiencing homelessness, the city has set up a Cambridge Community Food Line, available to any resident who is a high risk for food insecurity.

“The delivery service provides a weekly bag of produce and shelf-stable food items to individuals and families who have experienced the following: The food pantry or meal program you used has closed until further notice; you have lost your job or part of your income and cannot afford groceries at this time; you are homebound due to illness, disability, or quarantine and do not have friends or family that can bring you food; you are at high risk for COVID-19 (coronavirus) and do not have access to a regular food source.”

More at the Boston Globe, here. Local readers, try to remember these restaurants and thank them with your business when we come out of the tunnel to the other side of this plague.

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Photo: Parklands Primary School
Children from Parklands Primary School in the UK enjoyed a Christmas extravaganza at the ice rink of Leeds East Academy. And Parklands staff volunteered their time to serve a hot Christmas meal.

Here’s a Christmas dinner story from the UK, one that would be perfect if it weren’t so necessary.

Alex Evans writes at the Yorkshire Evening Post, “Staff at Parklands Primary School volunteered their time to serve up a hot meal for the school’s 328 pupils and their families [Monday] at its ‘Christmas Eve Eve’ party.

“Youngsters were able to meet Santa Claus at the party which was set up by headteacher Chris Dyson. He says he was left ‘heartbroken’ when he discovered some of his pupils had never met Father Christmas and many wouldn’t receive gifts. …

“Each child received a Christmas present to unwrap — likely to be the only one they will receive this year, Mr Dyson said.

“The school, in Leeds, West Yorkshire, serves one of the largest council estates in Europe and an area in the top 1 percent in England for deprivation.

“Only a third of working-age adults have jobs and three-quarters of pupils qualify for the pupil premium, extra money given to schools from the Government to support the poorest children.

“Headteacher Chris Dyson, hailed ‘an inspirational leader’ by Ofsted inspectors said: ‘It broke my heart when I started at the school five years ago and found out that some families don’t even go to visit Santa, which is something we all just take for granted. …

” ‘So I said I would bring Santa to Parklands and get every child at least one present to open.’ …

“Mr Dyson’s initiative saw 150 people attend the school’s first party six years ago. The number doubled the following year and continued to grow. [Today] 800 people benefited from the headteacher’s generosity, which has been helped by donations from local business who have given cash and gifts, as well as Leeds City Council who have provided food.

“Mr Dyson added: ‘We are in the middle of one of the biggest council estates in Europe, a lot of our families don’t even go off the estate. …

” ‘Christmas is a vulnerable time for families, its cold and for some people it is the only hot meal they will get this week. I’m blessed that I have had so many presents donated that those with a birthday coming up will get a birthday present as well.’

“Mr Dyson took over at the school in 2014, after it went through five headteachers in just one year and was rated inadequate by Ofsted, the government’s education watchdog. It had the country’s highest number of annual exclusions and a padded cell was used as a form of punishment. Mr Dyson said he wanted to bring ‘love and smiles’ back to the school and has extended that to the wider community. …

” ‘It’s for the entire community, anyone can come and they all do. Our first year we had a lot of kids who didn’t come to our school come round, and I said Santa doesn’t turn people away. So we just welcomed everyone. … It’s a vulnerable time, food isn’t as plentiful here as where I live. It’s important they get a hot meal.

‘These kids will ask why doesn’t Santa answer my letters like he does to people in those middle class areas. I want to make sure they feel Santa hasn’t forgotten about them.’

More.

Just a reminder about the miracle of great teachers.

Hat tip: @HertsLearning on twitter.

 

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Photo: Nichole Sobecki for NPR
The cypress sapling above was purchased with money received from the charity GiveDirectly in 2017. More recently, the charity teamed up with researchers to study the impact of cash grants on a wider Kenyan community.

Here’s a new way to look at “trickle down.” Unlike the wealthy, who are more likely to put extra cash into savings, poor people who receive cash actually spread the wealth around. Read about the results of a new study in Kenya.

Nurith Aizenman reports at National Public Radio [NPR], “Over the past decade there has been a surge of interest in a novel approach to helping the world’s poor: Instead of giving them goods like food or services like job training, just hand out cash — with no strings attached. Now a major new study suggests that people who get the aid aren’t the only ones who benefit.

“Edward Miguel, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of the study, says that until now, research on cash aid has almost exclusively focused on the impact on those receiving the aid. And a wealth of research suggests that when families are given the power to decide how to spend it, they manage the money in ways that improve their overall well-being: Kids get more schooling; the family’s nutrition and health improves.

“But Miguel says that ‘as nonprofits and governments are ramping up cash aid, it becomes more and more important to understand the broader economy-wide consequences.’

“In particular, there has been rising concern about the potential impact on the wider community — the people who are not getting the aid. …

“Miguel and his collaborators teamed up to conduct an experiment with one of the biggest advocates of cash aid. It’s a charity called GiveDirectly that, since 2009, has given out more than $140 million to impoverished families in various African countries.

“The researchers identified about 65,000 households across an impoverished, rural area of Kenya and then randomly assigned them to various groups: those who got no help from GiveDirectly and a ‘treatment group’ of about 10,500 families who got a one-time cash grant of about $1,000. …

“Eighteen months on, the researchers found that, as expected, the families who got the money used it to buy lots more food and other essentials. But that was just the beginning.

” ‘That money goes to local businesses,’ says Miguel. ‘They sell more. They generate more revenue. And then eventually that gets passed on into labor earnings for their workers.’

The net effect: Every dollar in cash aid increased total economic activity in the area by $2.60.

“But were those income gains simply washed out by a corresponding rise in inflation?

” ‘We actually find there’s a little bit of price inflation, but it’s really small,’ says Miguel. ‘It’s much less than 1%.’

“The study — recently released through the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research — also uncovered some evidence for why prices didn’t go up: A lot of local businesses reported that before the cash infusion they weren’t that busy.

“So when they suddenly get more customers, they don’t have to take extra steps like hiring more workers that would drive up their costs — and their prices. In economic parlance, there was enough ‘slack’ in the local economy to absorb the injection of cash.

“Eeshani Kandpal is an economist with the World Bank who has done research of her own on cash transfers — including a study that found that a cash aid program in the Philippines did drive up the cost of certain perishable food items. …

“The new study has a far broader scope, says Kandpal — encompassing not just a much larger number of participants but a vast range of goods and businesses whose pricing practices the researchers meticulously monitored.

” ‘It’s a super credible, interesting study,’ says Kandpal. ‘And very carefully done. … I’d be curious to see if they persist in the longer run,’ she says. ‘Eighteen months is certainly not short. But it’s not terribly long either.’ …

“Michael Faye, co-founder and president of GiveDirectly, says even if it turns out that a one-time cash infusion provides only a temporary boost, ‘I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.’ ”

And wouldn’t you rather see poor folks getting more money than wealthy people and corporations? I myself am doing OK and would really like to experience a more equitable world in my lifetime. More here.

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Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Christian Science Monitor
People come with plastic bottles and jugs to collect free water in Cape Town, South Africa, where a dire shortage spurred residents to cut water usage in half.

You may have read about the dire water scarcity in Cape Town, South Africa, a situation resulting from lack of public funds to do the work that would have protected the supply.

But this story shows how much people can accomplish when faced with a life or death challenge.

Ryan Lenora Brown reports at the Christian Science Monitor, “A year ago, [Musa] Baba and [Helen] Moffett had almost nothing in common, and in many ways, they still live in two different universes. Moffett lives in a manicured gated community flanked by mountains. Baba’s house is two tin rooms she built herself that grip the side of a hill cluttered with other small shacks.

“But these days, the two women, along with millions of others here, share a common preoccupation: how to save water. For Baba and many others, that’s been a lifelong project of necessity. But for another population of Cape Town residents, including Moffett, it’s part of a massive lifestyle pivot that has helped bring the city on the southwestern tip of South Africa back from the brink of the unthinkable.

“As recently as March, Cape Town’s government was instructing residents to prepare for an imminent ‘Day Zero,’ when taps across most of the city would be shut off indefinitely. …

“Newspaper headlines across the world blared [Cape Town] was about to become the first developed city in the world to completely run out of water.

“But behind the scenes, a tectonic shift was under way. As the city bartered for water with local farmers and hustled to build desalination plants, its residents simply started using less water. A lot less.

“And it has worked – at least for now. … Using a combination of sticks and carrots to coax residents on board, the city has cut its water use by half. Its biggest customers now use 80 percent less. Today, every Capetonian is allowed just 13 gallons of municipal water per day – a little less than the amount it takes to flush a toilet four times. Use more, and the city reduces your pressure to a trickle, and your water bill can turn into a mortgage payment. …

“Here in Cape Town, suburban residents have become connoisseurs of taking 90-second showers and then flushing their toilets with the water they collected while doing it.

“On popular water-saving Facebook groups, city residents debate the best way to wash their dog ‘off the grid’ (bottled water, one woman suggests. Scrub him down with used bath water, offers another.) They swap the names of local companies that will sink a personal well in your backyard. Local police, meanwhile, receive a steady stream of tips from concerned residents who’ve seen their neighbors committing the ultimate middle-class drought crime: watering their lawns. …

“Says Kirsty Carden, an engineer at the University of Cape Town’s Urban Water Management Research Unit, ‘Yes, it’s been a crisis, but it’s also good to learn these lessons now. Cape Town isn’t the only city in the world that’s going to need them for the future.’ …

“Water restrictions have had another, less obvious effect: They have given the rich a small but rare experience of how the poor have always gotten by.

“ ‘It’s humbling, learning to think about water the way most South Africans have been doing for a long time,’ Moffett says, arranging two gallon jugs of water from another local spring in the trunk of her car. ‘Every household chore takes three times as much thought, and three times as long.’ …

” ‘We have always lived like this – nothing has changed because of the drought,’ says Baba, sloshing a T-shirt in a sudsy bucket outside her house. ‘If now rich people can understand better what that’s like, I think that’s a good thing.’ ”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: Evensi

My husband and I alternate between our two sets of grandchildren on Halloween. Last year we got a kick out of seeing John perform the role of MC for the costume fashion show at the park on his street. Although we won’t be there this year, I’m glad I got to see my oldest grandson in this year’s Yoda costume and his sister as a mermaid. Her puzzlement about the way the bottom of her costume was cut led to explanations of mermaid anatomy and collaboration on mermaid drawings.

This year we join the Providence grandkids (one gentleman fire chief, one lady construction worker) for the gathering at Brown Street Park and the annual parade through blocked-off Providence streets.

Brown Street Park has many Friends (changed to “Fiends” for the holiday). It’s in an upscale neighborhood near the university and flourishes because of people who both care about it and know how to raise money. If only all Providence neighborhoods were like that (which I say because behind one place where I volunteer, there’s a filthy campsite where drugs are sold. I am told the city cleaned it up once, but the vacant lot reverted to its current sorry state. How I wish the city would try again and neighbors would feel that they could go in and plant a garden or something!) But I digress.

If you go to the Friends of Brown Street Park website, here, you will find a well-organized group of volunteers soliciting help from other potential volunteers for initiatives such as the Hallloween party and parade, the summer concert series and the Earth Day clean-up.

In poor communities, good things can happen, too, but no outsider can come in and decree what those good things should be. First come efforts to build trust among all neighbors, as suggested here, then come deliberations about what neighbors actually want. I am going to look into getting the city to deal with that no-longer-vacant lot. It’s so disturbing for children who attend nearby activities. All neighborhoods should be safe for children.

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Laura Bliss at the Atlantic‘s City Lab has a story on young people you may have seen performing in a New York subway car. She reports that in the film We Live This, the teens’ hopes seem hemmed in by poverty.

“ ‘Showtime’ dancing is a hallmark of the New York City transit scene,” writes Bliss. “Hoping for donations, crews of young black and Latino men perform exuberant choreographies for subway passengers, twisting and leaping from pole to pole with artful ‘lite-feet‘ dancing in between—and never before shouting, ‘It’s showtime!’

“Who are these dancers scraping by on their earnings? A new, short cinéma vérité documentary, We Live This, shines a light on the world of one crew, whose four young members perform on the J train. They are talented, hardworking, committed, and full of dreams, the film shows. But for some, the obstacles are high, and the alternatives slim. …

“Forty, is homeless.

‘As I’m dancing on the train, I’m thinking about where am I sleeping at night,’ he says. ‘Who should I call? Who is going to pick up? What if they don’t answer?’

“Showtime is the best way he he knows to a better life, a way into a community, he says. …

“Of course, the subway is no simple launchpad to success. While some passengers love the dancing, many others avoid eye contact, and some even yell at crews to switch cars. …

“ ‘I hope people will watch this and look at these young men as human beings,’ the film’s director, James Burns, tells CityLab. ‘And see the last vestiges of a culture that may be dying out.’ ”

More.

WE LIVE THIS – OFFICIAL TRAILER from HAYDEN 5 on Vimeo.

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Some initiatives that are costly up front have benefits that far outweigh those costs but don’t show up for years. Even then, people may disagree about what caused the outcomes.

One such initiative sends nurses to new mothers who are young, poor and often friendless to help ensure that their babies get a leg up in life.

At the Washington Post

“A high school senior learns that she’s pregnant — and she’s terrified. But a registered nurse comes to visit her in her home for about an hour each week during pregnancy, and every other week after birth, until the baby turns 2. The nurse advises her what to eat and not to smoke; looks around the house to advise her of any safety concerns; encourages her to read and talk to her baby; and counsels her on nutrition for herself and her baby.

“This kind of support, with trained nurses coaching low-income, first-time mothers, is among the most effective interventions ever studied. Researchers have accumulated decades of evidence from randomized controlled trials — the gold standard in social science research — following participants for up to 15 years. They have consistently found that nurse coaches reduce pregnancy complications, pre-term births, infant deaths, child abuse and injury, violent crimes and substance abuse. What’s more, nurse coaches improve language development, and over the long term, cognitive and educational outcomes.

“Nurse coaching is a vital tool that addresses both the liberal concern about income inequality and the conservative concern about inequality of opportunity. …

“Still, nurse coaching reaches only 2 to 3 percent of eligible families. Which raises the question: if it’s so successful — and people on both sides of the aisle support it — why can’t it be scaled to reach every eligible family?”

There are two stumbling blocks according to the reporters: First, funding must be cobbled together from numerous unpredictable sources; second, the costs are up front, whereas the benefits to government and society appear over time.

“If nurse coaching were fully scaled to reach every eligible family, the costs to state and federal governments would outweigh the savings for the first five years. But then the savings would start to outweigh the costs. Over 10 years, the net savings would be $2.4 billion for state governments and $816 million for the federal government.”

So the question becomes: do we have the patience? More here.

A similar initiative that Suzanne started supporting when she lived in San Francisco focuses on homeless mothers. Read about the great results of the Homeless Prenatal Program here.

Photo: iStock
When nurses coach low-income moms, their babies benefit.

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