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Getting Ahead: Poverty is a lack of resources

Posted May 31, 2023 9:11 AM
By Patricia Jones, Alliance Community Task Force: Creating Opportunity

Poverty is the extent to which an individual does without resources. We have a great deal of resource inequality in America and throughout the world. This means that some people have much, but many don’t have enough for a comfortable life. Because of the patterns we learn, these divisions change very little over time.

If we want to reduce the problems created by poverty, we first have to recognize that there are different types of resources we rely on. We think of financial resources first – being able to purchase goods and services. People who don’t earn enough to buy food, housing, and the other things they need live in poverty. The lack of financial resources is how our government measures poverty, so it is natural that most of us define it the same way. This is the poverty that is visible to all of us.

The lack of financial resources doesn’t explain why some families struggle in poverty for generations, while others are able to overcome that station and move up. There are other types of resources that help us understand why some people become successful.

Emotional resources are the most important ones to be developed for a person to move out of poverty. Having emotional resources means being able to choose and control emotional responses, particularly to negative situations, without engaging in self-destructive behavior. This shows itself through the choices we make. People who have strong emotional resources can withstand difficult situations and feelings, and they have to be able to break old habits or patterns of behavior. Financial and emotional poverty do not have to exist together. Many people who are well-off suffer from emotional poverty.

Support systems and role models are critical in developing emotional resources. Support systems are the friends and family who can help times of need. We all face problems at some point in our lives where we need to get help from our support systems.

Developing relationships with role models who are appropriate and nurturing helps us learn how to live a better life. One of the things a good role model will teach is the knowledge of hidden rules, the unspoken cues and habits of a group. Hidden rules exist in poverty, in middle class, and in wealth. They also exist in regions of the country and in racial or ethnic groups. They help us understand food, dress, language, and certain behaviors. A person who wants to move to a different group has to learn the hidden rules of that group.

Another type of emotional resource is spiritual. People with spiritual resources believe in divine purpose and guidance and that we each are capable and have value.

Mental resources include reading, writing, and math abilities, and language skills. We should be learners at all stages of our lives. People also need to be able to engage in mindsets, self-talk,

and other techniques that allow them to see a problem not just from a personal perspective, but also as a more abstract issue that they can cope with.

Health issues can be a major problem for households in poverty. People with limited finances often do not get preventative medical care like regular doctor check-ups, eye exams, and dental visits. They may not be able to afford or understand the importance of a nutritional diet. Expensive medicine needed to control a health problem may be out of reach. A person with health resources can manage their physical problems and can be self-sufficient.

Organizations who work with people in poverty need to understand how to help a household develop stability and what interventions can help. With more resources a person can plan, learn, and create a better future. Any of us as individuals can reach out to others by providing emotional support or by serving as role models.

We typically think of poverty as a lack of financial resources, and those can be huge, devastating problems. However, the ability to leave poverty depends more on a person’s emotional resources. As a society that wants a better future and a more stable community, we must work to improve both.