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By Paul Ainslie, President of SVdP Indy

When you think of poverty in Indiana, what do you see? Do you see lines at the food pantry? Or families crowded into small, rundown buildings? Do you see unsheltered people on the street corner, begging? And how does this make you feel?

Matthew Desmond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Evicted,” has written a new book “Poverty by America.” Note that the title isn’t Poverty in America, but by America. His thesis is that, in the richest nation ever on earth, we accept that 20% of our children being food insecure is “just the way it is.” We accept that 39% of Hoosiers are living below a sustainable household income level, even with assistance, and that one illness, car repair or unexpected bill can put the family on the street. And we accept that a shortage of affordable housing is “just the free market” forces at work. Prof. Desmond, the son of a preacher, says the acceptance of such abhorrence is a sin.

Jesus said, “The poor will always be with you.” I wonder if what he meant was “Knowing human nature, poverty will never be solved.”

Over 1,000,000 Hoosier households struggle every day to feed, house, clothe, educate and keep healthy everyone in the home. The most common jobs in Indiana are laborers, freight stock and material movers, but 31% of those workers qualify as the “working poor.” These are households with one or more members employed but with income below a sustainable level. In Marion County, 42% of households fall into this category.

In many of our works, St. Vincent de Paul addresses the immediate needs of our neighbors, providing food, clothing, shelter and household needs. These actions are important, but are incomplete. In Prof. Desmond’s view, we must do more—we must become “Poverty Abolitionists” and address the systemic issues that prevent our neighbors from enjoying all that America has to offer.

SVdP Indy has been engaging in what that “more” looks like with our Changing Lives Forever program, which aims to help participants to begin a journey of “getting ahead” and building a more sustainable lifestyle. We’re proud of this program but there’s still much work to be done to dismantle systemic injustices. And it will require the government, businesses, social services, and all of us coming together to reshape systems, wages, housing, and so much more.

So as we continue our mission of serving those with immediate needs, we are also striving to provide services that go beyond and equip people for a more stable, sustainable and self-sufficient life—one that allows them to rise above the poverty level.

What do you think of this approach? I would like to hear from you if you have any comments or suggestions for how SVdP Indy can do more to end poverty. Please email me at