They say the only constant is change. And so here we all are–separate and yet together–facing challenges, calamities, opportunities, and growth.
What we do with what we have control over sheds light on our value systems, our inherent strengths, and our own brand of uniqueness. And just as we do this in our own individual lives and family systems, we at Catholic Charities Fort Worth are pursuing our goals to get families out of poverty with the same nimbleness and creativity called on all of us in order to rise to this occasion. But it looks entirely new.
The constraints of COVID-19 are daunting. When applied to several of our already-controlled design processes–meant to study and learn and create baselines from which to grow information from- it can make or break our models. So we are doing what we do best–putting our ears to the ground and gleaning the information that can only come to us firsthand, editing our toolbox and our strategies to meet people where they are right now, in ways we hadn’t predicted just a few short months ago.
One phenomenon that we’ve picked up on across multiple programs is concern from our clients who work in higher-exposure jobs. While many are focusing–also rightfully so–on the individuals who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut due to COVID-19, we also want to paint another picture. Many of our own work in grocery stores and in healthcare, and they carry with them the risk of not only their own health, but the health of the loved ones they are working hard to provide that paycheck for. If they quit, they lose not only a paycheck but also eligibility for unemployment benefits. This may not seem like a sound choice for some, but when burdened with the anxieties and unknowns, it is a paramount reminder that our case management teams work ultimately to ensure the wellbeing of the family first.
A Holistic Anti-Poverty Approach
To outsiders looking in, an anti-poverty agency supporting clients’ decisions to forgo income or a paycheck over health concerns (if that is what the client decides) might seem counterproductive to the mission of eradicating poverty, but our Catholic tradition says otherwise. The first principle of the USCCB’s A Catholic Framework for Economic Life (1996) is that “The economy exists for the person, not the person for the economy.” The core of Catholic economic thought has always been this: that the objective of economic activity is not measured in monetary numbers, but in the autonomy, wellbeing, and spiritual fulfillment of the individual and the family. In his encyclical, Populorum Progressio (1967), Pope Paul VI described the ultimate goal of anti-poverty initiatives as the development of the whole person, both materially and spiritually (or socially). For Paul VI, eradicating poverty involves more than a steady paycheck. It demands that we “reduce inequities, eliminate discrimination, free men from the bonds of servitude, and thus give them the capacity…to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments.”
Our clients have faced hard economic choices before COVID-19 and will continue to afterwards, whether it be sacrificing time with family for an extra job, forgoing healthcare because of cost, or a myriad of other obstacles. Our holistic approach to long-term case management resists the temptation to reduce the economic life of the individual down to mere productivity or dollars. For us, there is no better time to remember our humanity and do our best to serve the families–the whole of them–while we walk alongside of them on their journey. COVID-19 has presented new challenges to our community, but we continue to adapt and expand our services to meet both the immediate and long-term needs of our clients. In the midst of an unexpected crisis, we remain committed to meeting families where they are at, and addressing their unique needs and concerns. We’re committed to the whole person and families’ well-being in the long-term.
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