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Recognizing Poverty Awareness Month

Homeless and Hungry sign

January is National Poverty Awareness Month.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the official poverty rate in 2021 was 11.6%. That means that 37.9 million people were living in poverty in the United States. In the world, there are 1 billion children living in poverty. Poverty Awareness Month is observed in the month of January in order to bring recognition for those who suffer in these poor conditions and how we, as a community, can help.

Although statistically, the U.S. recorded its lowest poverty rate in 2019, the rate rose sharply in both 2020 and 2021, likely due to the pandemic.

People who do not suffer from poverty may not be aware that their basic needs are often taken for granted. Not having access to running water, food, shelter or even clean clothes is something that most of us cannot even fathom.

Learning about how you can help in your local community is a great way to observe Poverty Awareness Month, and recognizing how you can help will carry on throughout the year.

Here are some local organizations that assist those in need:

Center for a Better South: The Center for a Better South is a pragmatic nonprofit that provides adult entrepreneurship classes to address and solve the problem of economic inequality.

Habitat for Humanity: This national nonprofit organization helps families build and improve places to call home. They believe affordable housing plays a critical role in strong and stable communities.

East Cooper Community Outreach: ECCO’s ministry of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” aims to improve the quality of life in the community in a compassionate way that respects the dignity and worth of every person. All programs and services strive to help neighbors find a path toward opportunity.

Meals on Wheels: Meals on Wheels America is dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. Find a local chapter in the Lowcountry.

FAVOR Foundation: The FAVOR Foundation connects local families in need with health care options and appropriate resources.

Lowcountry Food Bank: Founded in 1983, Lowcountry Food Bank strives to fulfill their mission to lead the fight against hunger throughout 10 coastal counties of South Carolina. They are headquartered in Charleston with two food distribution centers in Yemassee and Myrtle Beach.

Fields to Families: Fields to Families serves those experiencing food insecurity in the Lowcountry by providing access to fresh produce collected from local farms, farmers markets, and their Moncks Corner garden.

Fresh Future Farm: Located in a once vacant lot in North Charleston, Fresh Future Farm serves the Chicora-Cherokee community with access to greenspace and healthy food. Their mission is to provide access to quality food, jobs and education. They also nurture leadership skills.

Humanities Foundation: The Humanities Foundation works to develop the highest quality affordable and workforce housing possible, while enhancing the lives of local residents and improving communities through affordability, education and advocacy.

I Heart Hungry Kids: The I Heart Hungry Kids program was started by three young brothers in 2013. They work to organize local food drives and address public policies on lunch debt, as well as other hunger issues in schools. They also address food insecurities nationwide.

The Navigation Center: The Navigation Center helps the homeless people in Charleston and those who are at risk of homelessness connect with service providers and enroll in job readiness training, housing, educational programs, financial-management workshops, life-skills training and health care/mental health services.

One80 Place: With a homeless shelter located on Meeting Street in downtown Charleston, One80 Place offers re-housing services, meals, legal aide and medical appointments to those who are housing insecure or homeless.

Operation Home: Serving the tri-county community, Operation Home assists with home repair, wheelchair ramp and heat/cold relief programs. Their focus is with households with children, the disabled or seniors. They collaborate with other non-profits in the area.

Origin: Origin is a local nonprofit that provides professional financial and housing counseling services to those in need. Their mission is to empower individuals to achieve financial and housing stability through advocacy, counseling and education.

Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach Services: The mission of Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach is to build equitable communities and empower individuals to reach their full potential by providing basic and emergency needs, education, employment and health services. They are located in downtown Charleston.

Palmetto Goodwill: Palmetto Goodwill provides services for equitable access to training, education and employment. They offer jobs through their Goodwill locations throughout the state.

The Salvation Army: The Salvation Army has a number of satellite locations in the tri-county area. They offer services for disaster relief, casework services, women’s ministries, men’s ministries, a food pantry and community and education programs.

Lowcountry Pregnancy Center: The Lowcountry Pregnancy Center offers free services for pregnancy testing, unplanned pregnancies, ultrasounds, parenting classes and other support services and resources.

Turn90: Working with men at the highest risk of re-arrest, Turn90 combines cognitive behavioral classes, supportive services, transitional work, and job placement to create an opportunity for success after prison where one doesn't currently exist.

Neighbors Together: Offering food, health care services, homeless resources, economic classes, rent and utility assistance, clothing and hygiene products to those in need, Neighbors Together is a local organization that does exactly as the name implies – brings neighbors together.

Reach out to one of these worthy organizations and see how you can help in recognition of Poverty Awareness Month. And if you are someone in need of any of the services listed above, don’t be afraid to inquire. There is no time like the present.

As Nelson Mandela once said, "Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the action of human beings."