|Rev. Scott George|
I wasn’t shocked to read the article, “Over 367K Households Can’t Afford Necessities.” Then, again, maybe I should have been. For the past 15 years, many of us in the nonprofit world have been “voices calling in the wilderness,” sounding the alarm of this underlying, unspoken and unaddressed skeleton in our closet.
I’m grateful for United Way’s vision and execution of the recent ALICE study which is an acronym for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed, which exposes a major issue for our community leaders. As with any research, the numbers, statistics, percentages, observations and analyses don’t do much if we don’t use these facts as fuel and motivation for change and action.
Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of the name “Alice;” the old German term that means “noble.” It was noble of United Way to provide us with these valuable tools; it will be even more noble if we use this study to stir us, alarm us, and provoke us to correction and realignment.
To help define reality for us and to get a sense of the size and scope of this issue before us, let me illustrate its impact by using a few visuals:If 376,000 households can’t afford basic necessities with the average U.S. household of 2.5 people per family, using this figure, that means that more than 917,500 people are affected by poverty in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. The population of Orange, Seminole and Osceola is about 2 million, which means roughly one-half of our population is struggling in the region called “Beautiful.”
Let use another visual to illustrate the significance of this issue. With 917,500 of our neighbors, friends, co-workers and family struggling with poverty, we could fill our new Dr. Phillips Performing Centre for the Performing Arts more than 335 times with our teachers, motel workers and secretaries. Our newly renovated “Camping World” Stadium could be filled 14 times over with our construction workers, mechanics, and landscapers, and our new Orlando City Soccer Stadium could be filled 35 times with firefighters, police officers and retail and fast-food employees. Or, to put it another way, every other car caught in Interstate 4 gridlock is worried about more than just traffic inconvenience.
It’s not beautiful or acceptable for one-half of our community members to be on the brink of poverty while the other half pretends this issue doesn’t exist or ignores the realities of our economic makeup. Thomas Carlyle once said, “Every noble work is at first impossible.” We have seen impossible become possible. We have made tremendous strides in recent years in our community with homelessness and with veterans who were homeless.
The noble work of many of our local nonprofits has seen incredible outcomes as we have come together in breaking down silos and collaborated with unity and compassion. We have demonstrated that our community is filled with caring, generous, and compassionate people, organizations, churches and families who care and want to make our community stronger, healthier and whole.
As Thomas Carlyle said, “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” What an incredible opportunity we have as a community to continue to tackle this crisis head-on and avoid complacency, apathy and indifference, and demonstrate to all how really strong we are together.
Rev. Scott George is senior pastor of Pine Castle United Methodist Church and development director of Orlando Hope.