Written by Thomas Costanza
Thirty-nine percent of New Orleans’ young people “now” live in poverty. This is the same as pre-Katrina levels. The problem stems not just from lack of jobs but also from the “quality of jobs.”
Pope Francis has said, “Work is so important, for the ability it gives people to support their families, that creating and organizing employment is a huge human and social responsibility.”
With these words, Pope Francis continues to bring our attention to the poor and our responsibility toward them.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) responds directly to this call by addressing the root causes of poverty in the United States. The collection in local Catholic church parishes to help fund groups that address these causes will be taken up Nov. 21-22.
In the Archdiocese of New Orleans, CCHD has given grants to several groups.
One is the New Orleans Master Craftsman’s Guild at Corpus Christi-Epiphany Parish where skilled tradesmen and craftsmen train young men in the trades of masonry, ironworking and plastering. The program provides apprentices with a lifelong gift of self-sustainability while helping to break the cycle of poverty that too many of them face.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to learn a trade, to make a living and to develop my skills as a blacksmith while improving myself as a person,” said Don Le, an apprentice who will soon graduate from the Guild program.
“The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crisis … Inequality is the root of social ills.” – Pope Francis
The Northshore Housing Initiative Community Land Trust received a CCHD grant. This marked the first time CCHD funds have been granted to address poverty on the Northshore. The trust is working to alleviate St. Tammany’s 10.4 percent poverty rate through the development of affordable workforce housing, which will employ low-income construction workers to build homes for low- to moderate-income families.
I think addressing poverty with a multi-faceted approach – creating jobs and making home ownership accessible – is the most effective way to ad- dress the needs of the poor in our community. We are helping create 75 construction jobs and providing housing for 24 families.
”The community land trust model creates permanently affordable housing, while making home ownership possible for moderate-income workers,” says Shawn Macomber, president of the board of directors at the Northshore Housing Initiative. “The community land trust purchases the land, and the homebuyer purchases the house and leases the land from the trust. The lease includes a resale provision that ensures affordability for the next buyer and for generations to come.”
Another beneficiary of a CCHD grant is The Micah Project, which continues to work on the issues that fuel mass incarceration. The Micah Project has been successful in the Pre-Trial Diversion Program by reallocating resources to prevent unnecessary incarceration and has worked to change the sentencing laws in keeping with the restorative justice agenda of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children works to reduce school suspensions that lead to the school-to-prison pipeline. Reduction in uniform policy suspensions led to a reduction of 10,000 over the previous year. This group is also working with juvenile detention facilities to enact restorative justice disciplines in the juvenile detention system.
I know that addressing poverty with a multi-pronged approach – teaching skills, empowering youth and creating jobs – is the most effective way to break the cycle of poverty in our community.
The CCHD directly addresses Louisiana’s 19.8-percent poverty rate by developing the region’s workforce through training programs and equip- ping young people to fill good quality jobs.
All funds raised through the local second collection Nov. 21-22 are sent to the CCHD national office to be re-granted, after an extensive review process, back to the local community.
“To enable men and women to escape from poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor. Poverty calls us to sow hope. … Poverty is the flesh of the poor Jesus, in that child who is hungry, in the one who is sick, in those unjust social structures.” – Pope Francis
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) exists to enable the Catholic Church to fund grassroots organizations working directly with people most in need to address systemic change. In New Orleans, CCHD is funding these four organizations seeking to alleviate root causes of poverty and crime.
Parishioners and anyone wanting to make a difference can make a donation through the upcoming second collection in Catholic parishes Nov. 21-22. To learn more about the CCHD, call 874-7829 or visit povertyUSA.org.
Tom Costanza is the diocesan director for Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Go to: https://www.facebook.com/cathcharitiesNO/ to watch a video about the apprenticeship program.