A Revival of Compassion

*Note* – The following is a personal opinion and has nothing to do with my employer or any other organization with which I'm involved.

The Rev. Mike Aiken, Executive Director of Greensboro Urban Ministry, wrote this letter to the Greensboro News & Record:

In my nearly 40 years of ministry with the poor, I’ve never seen a more desperate time for those in need! If the Great Recession of the past several years wasn’t enough, our government is retreating from a War on Poverty in the 1960s to a War on the Poor today.

Congress continues to debate proposed massive cuts to the food stamp program. As a result of a computer glitch at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the demand for emergency food bags more than doubled overnight. With the decision not to extend unemployment benefits, 12,000 Triad families are facing homelessness. In July, Urban Ministry assisted many of these families with more than $52,000 in direct assistance. The decision of our legislature not to accept federal Medicaid funding that would cover an additional 500,000 North Carolina medically indigent residents was a major factor in the decision to close the HealthServe Medical Clinic at the end of August.

Who will stand up for the hungry and poor? “Lord, when did we see you hungry or sick?” (Matthew 25). We need a Revival of Compassion in North Carolina!

In a conversation I was having with a friend the other day the topic of the food drive organized by the organization I work for came up. Working on that food drive for the last four years has given me a closer look than many folks get at how the system for feeding the hungry works. The sheer volume of food that flows through the network is mind boggling and when you see that scale of need it doesn't take long to realize that it's not something that can be handled solely by the nonprofits out there. This isn't a guess, it's an observation: with reduced government programs people will go hungry. Not "might", "will." 

That same conversation led me to admit that for the first time in a very long while I'm extremely worried about what's going to happen to our community. This isn't hyperbole or some partisan reaction to current affairs. The cumulative effect of all the factors that Rev. Aiken outlines in his letter are going to have an immediate impact on the lives of thousands of people in our community. The burden of providing a modicum of a safety net will now fall even more heavily on the shoulders of the nonprofit community and many members of that community are facing funding cuts of their own. Unfortunately I truly think you'll start to see a wave of closures of those nonprofits as they collapse from a combination of funding cuts and increased demand. If not outright failures, then a reduction in services in an effort to survive. Either way there will be people going without and that's a tragedy. 

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