Poverty is not a crime, yet many people who are living below the poverty line are treated like criminals. Few people want to live poor, yet getting out of poverty is much harder than it looks. For people who grew up in poverty, it’s even harder to overcome obstacles. When you are focused on your basic needs, when you are worried about food and shelter, it’s difficult to plan for your future. Intergenerational poverty is a vicious cycle, and one that requires compassionate help in order to climb out of.

Poverty Rates in the United States

According to current US poverty statistics, 14.5% of the population in the United States is living in poverty. This is defined as living on $11,892 a year for an individual, and $23,836 for a family of four. This percentage of the population makes up 45.3 million Americans. This doesn’t include the thousands more who are only one crisis away from being impoverished. Approximately 48% of Americans are currently in poverty or dangerously close to it. In Utah alone, kids living in intergenerational poverty could fill 1,611 school buses. Studies show that most of these children will grow up to depend on social services, furthering the vicious cycle.

Intergenerational Poverty and the Role of Support Agencies

Growing up in poverty sets up children to become adults who also struggle to get a solid financial foundation beneath them. When resources are scarce, a younger person may bypass an education in order to start working right away to support the family. In a powerful 2005 speech by Nelson Mandela given at the Make Poverty History rally in Trafalgar Square in London, Mandela stated, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” It is up to support agencies to help families overcome the obstacles and secure a future that is better than the one they grew up in.

When you can look at helping others out of poverty, not as charity, but as the promotion of fundamental human rights, you can better understand the necessity of helping out each and every citizen until poverty has been eradicated.

Why Support is Necessary for Those Coming Out of Poverty

In a family that is barely surviving, there is no time or energy to focus on the tools needed to get out of poverty. Energy is spent working and struggling just to get food on the table. While a child may go to school every day and know that their education is important, they may need to come home and watch siblings so that mom or dad can go to work. Children who grow up in poverty learn at a young age that they have to help out in order for their family to survive. While this creates children who can be very responsible, this is not teaching the child skills they will need to thrive.

When survival is being fought for every day, it’s impossible to thrive.

Support matters. If someone you know is struggling to make ends meet and needs help getting out of poverty, Community Action Services and Food Bank can help. Visit communityactionuc.org to learn about what services are out there or call 801-373-8200. With classes, support, and increased social capital, families can overcome the vicious cycle  of intergenerational poverty.