Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog
- Posted byon January 8, 2014 at 7:15 PM EDT
“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America…It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won.” – President Lyndon B. Johnson, State of the Union, January 8, 1964."
Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of the War on Poverty. The effort, which consisted of anti-poverty programs aimed at improving education and healthcare access, feeding the hungry, and ensuring a livelihood for our seniors, was an important step in both our country’s awareness of and commitment to fighting the hurdles, hardships and lack of opportunity faced by people living below the poverty line.
Over the past 50 years, federal programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Headstart and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have played a critical role in the national effort to fight poverty. Today, these and other anti-poverty initiatives have contributed to a reduction in overall poverty rates and are currently keeping close to 40 million Americans from falling below the poverty line. In addition to a decrease in the overall poverty rate during this time, the poverty rate among seniors has fallen from roughly 30 percent in the mid-1960s to 9.1 percent in 2012.
The Obama administration has worked hard to help create jobs, improve our schools, increase access to healthcare, and ensure fair treatment for everyone working and seeking work. And the effort to continue fighting poverty remains a top priority for President Obama. According to the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau, 49.7 million Americans, or 16 percent of the population, were in poverty in 2012. Furthermore, a Census report released yesterday found that 3.6 percent of our population experienced chronic poverty between 2009 and 2011. During that same period of time, nearly one in three Americans lived in poverty for at least two months.
- Posted byon December 17, 2013 at 4:03 PM EDT
History is a great teacher.
Associate Pastor Ben Davidson of Bethany Community Church learned a valuable lesson during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that benefitted him and his congregation the morning of Nov. 17, 2013, when a powerful tornado tore through Washington IL.
His quick thinking reminds me when disasters occur; having a plan can save lives and help pivot a community toward a strong recovery. I have learned this lesson many times through the faith leaders I’ve engaged as director of the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships.
On Sunday morning Pastor Davidson was preparing to begin his adult Sunday school class, when he received an emergency phone call. A tornado had touched down and their church was in its path.
Immediately he and the staff worked to move the congregation --particularly the children -- to their designated shelter in the church location and they began to pray together as the storm passed through their community.
- Posted byon November 4, 2013 at 6:36 PM EDT
Tomorrow, the White House will celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, for the fifth time since President Obama took office. This year, First Lady Michelle Obama will provide remarks and light the diya, or lamp.
Watch the First Lady’s remarks live at starting at WhiteHouse.gov/Live 4:00 p.m. EST
And check out this statement from President Obama on the Observance of Diwali.
Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
- Posted byon November 1, 2013 at 5:39 PM EDT
The City of Brotherly Love puts its motto into practice. I saw this firsthand when I travelled to Philadelphia to meet with a network of community leaders who partner with USDA through its Summer Food Service Program. With this program, USDA subsidizes nutritious summer lunches for students who need them and works with community partners to deliver those meals.
In Philadelphia, about 22% of children live in households that have trouble putting enough food on the table for every member of the family. That means when school is out, and school meals are not available, many kids are vulnerable. The Summer Food Service Program plays a critical role in making sure kids have access to nutritious meals so that they can begin the school year well nourished and alert. My friend and former director of the White House’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives during the George W. Bush Administration, Professor John DiIulio, invited me to Philadelphia where he currently works at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fox Leadership Program.
- Posted byon September 18, 2013 at 2:34 PM EDT
Last year, President Obama articulated an ambitious and multifaceted agenda to combat human trafficking in his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative. This week, the Administration took two important steps to advance that agenda.
In 2012, the President charged the Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships with making recommendations for strengthening the partnerships the federal government forms with community organizations, both religious and secular, to prevent and combat trafficking. The Advisory Council delivered its report of recommendations, “Building Partnerships to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery,” to the President in April 2012.
In partial fulfillment of those recommendations, we welcomed more than one hundred leaders to the White House this week for a day-long convening focused on human trafficking. The gathering included heads of religious denominations, rabbis and nuns, CEOs of large non-profits such as the United Way and Girl Scouts, foundation leaders, along with human trafficking survivors and experts, all united in their interest to join forces to eradicate modern-day slavery. Participants discussed ways their organizations can work together to raise awareness and educate the public, identify victims, expand services for survivors and eliminate slavery in the goods and products we consume. We look forward to continuing to work with this group in coming days.
- Posted byon August 23, 2013 at 1:17 PM EDT
Earlier this year, I wrote about the innovative work of community-based job clubs across the country that work specifically with mid- to senior-level baby boomer professionals who have been unemployed for six months, a year − sometimes even longer. These support groups provide networking opportunities, job search tips and fellowship to individuals, most of whom have never before been out of work for an extended period of time.
To better understand and address the needs of these job seekers, Eric Seleznow, the new acting assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, myself and other leaders from across the Labor Department recently sat down with about 20 long-term unemployed professionals who attend similar job clubs in the Washington metro area. Our aim was to learn more about their experiences, including how they meet their financial obligations, how their job searches progress and how they upgrade their skills. We also wanted their insights into what types of services and supports would help them the most in returning to work.
The stories were both heartbreaking and hopeful. Some of the workers said they are struggling to support adult children and aging parents. Others who have been out of work for more than two years said they are dipping into their children’s college funds and 401k savings plans to make ends meet, as their Unemployment Insurance benefits expired long ago.
Many of the workers are still adapting to a new era of hiring dominated by the Internet, applicant tracking software and social networking sites. Some expressed hesitation at taking jobs with pay cuts of as much as 50 to 75 percent, for fear of never regaining their past earnings. They are anxious about – but open to – relocating or switching careers entirely.
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