WASHINGTON — A high school principal from Philadelphia, the head of a suburban Washington organization that helps people find affordable housing and free furnishings and the founder of a group that helps fight evictions all offered the same advice on Wednesday: Poverty is not an unbreakable cycle.
“Poverty is not inevitable,” said Mark Bergel, founder of A Wider Circle in Bethesda, Maryland. “It is a choice we make as a country. Allowing it to endure will not be our choice any longer.”
On the 25th anniversary of the UN International Day for Eradication of Poverty, the anti-poverty advocates met at the National Press Club to offer ways Americans can help poor people move out of poverty.
Linda Cliatt-Wayman served as principal at one of the most dangerous high school’s in America for five years. In her time at Strawberry Mansion High School in Philadelphia, Cliatt-Wayman fought to erase poverty one student at a time.
“Living in poverty has a way of robbing you of your hopes and dreams,” Cliatt-Wayman said. “Strawberry Mansion was full of people that had no dreams.”
Her message to students was simple: “The cycle of poverty can be broken. Education will always be the best way to end generational poverty.”
Although she was the school superintendant in the Strawberry Mansion’s district, she said, she volunteered to become principal because nobody else would take the job.
Matt Pritchard spent a year in a homeless to better understand homelessness. What he realized was that there was little difference between him and others and that he was one catastrophe away from a similar course.
Today, Pritchard’s organization, HomeStart, offers potential victims of eviction the chance at an alternative. HomeStart lends people a portion of their rent to stall an eviction, while simultaneously offering solutions and training.
“There has never been an alternative to evicting a family,” Pritchard said. “Until now.”
According to Pritchard, his Boston-based organization prevented 459 evictions last year and believes that the service can be replicated.
Both Pritchard and Cliatt-Waymann said people need to take action in their communities if poverty is to be reduced or eradicated.