Are We Helping Families?

Aug 17, 2017

by David Levine, President/CEO

This week I participated in a lively discussion within the local provider community. Maurico Miller, the founder of the Family Independence Initiative, wrote this op-ed in the New York Times challenging some accepted assumptions about lifting families out of poverty.

Specifically, Mr. Miller faults mainstream anti-poverty programs with focusing on individual family success at the expense of understanding the impact of community on that family’s success.

He recognizes that, even within very poor neighborhoods, families share unseen capabilities to lift themselves out of poverty. These include extensive social networks, shared services (like childcare and carpooling arrangements), financial support, community-building centers (like churches), and other service referrals that help poor families.

It also includes something akin to “social signaling,” when one family strives to do what other families are doing in the neighborhood. In Mr. Miller’s words, this “social signaling” may inspire families to save for a home purchase or start a business.

As Mr. Miller summarized, the point of human services should be “to use our positions and our privilege and access to money in a way that actually bolsters the initiative that the families take.”

From its beginning, GSH has kept our residents accountable for their own success or failure in our housing. That begins with a lease; all our residents must sign one as a “tenant” and GSH as the “landlord.” Like any other landlord along Richmond Highway, GSH will demand of residents that they pay their rent on the first of the month, as well as meet all other terms of their lease.

We respect our residents enough — and always have — that we make them responsible for their housing. That is an element of our approach to housing and services, perhaps the most critical one, that lifts our residents to new levels of housing stability and self-sufficiency.

It makes all the difference in their success.