ST. LOUIS, Sept. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The nation needs to seriously re-think how it deals with poverty and change the way resources are directed to the problem, said Joe Flannigan, the national president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, an international Catholic lay organization whose mission is centered on helping those in need and living in poverty.
"This isn't about people who are temporarily struggling just because of a bad recession. This is about people for whom the American dream is so far out of reach that they are in a deep, dark hole with no way to climb up or out," said Flannigan.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul will be joining Catholic Charities USA and eight other nonprofit organizations on September 18 and 19 in Fort Worth, Texas, for the inaugural "National Poverty Summit," part of an effort to develop a national dialogue on how to reduce poverty in the United States. Other organizations participating in the event will include Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Save the Children, Feeding America and the National Alliance to End Homelessness. White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes will open the summit, and the keynote address will be delivered by Mark Shriver, senior vice president of U.S. operations for Save the Children.
"The most recent figures from the U.S. Census show that some 46 million Americans -- about 15 percent of the population -- are living in poverty, the highest we've ever seen," said Flannigan. "We and a host of other charitable organizations and even businesses have focused a lot of resources and people on this problem for many decades. Clearly, we need to find more effective ways to combat poverty."
Flannigan said he hopes that the summit will lead to a "dramatically different approach to treating poverty." He said one concept that has gained traction is "systemic change," by which organizations collaborate to develop innovative ways to reduce or eliminate poverty and advocate for long-term change at the local, state and national levels.
"This isn't about government getting more or less involved in the issue," he said. "We all own the problem. Very simply, we need to engage more people and more organizations in our efforts, and explore solutions that make a lasting difference. In the end, we're not talking about statistics, but people who are members of our communities. They need and deserve far better than what they have now."
One of the oldest charitable organizations in the world, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (http://www.svdpusa.org) is a Catholic lay organization of some 700,000 men and women throughout the world who voluntarily join together to grow spiritually and offer person-to-person service to the needy and people living in poverty in 142 countries on five continents. With the U.S. headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., membership in the United States totals more than 172,000 in 4,600 communities. Programs include home visits, housing assistance, disaster relief, job training and placement, food pantries, dining halls, clothing, transportation and utility costs, care for the elderly and medicine. Providing more than $595 million in tangible and in-kind services, SVdP serves more than 14 million people in need each year, performs more than 648,000 visits to people in their homes, and delivers more than 7 million service hours to those in need, regardless of race, religion or national origin.
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SOURCE Society of St. Vincent de Paul