If knowledge is power, then Tucsonans have a decision to make.
We know, thanks to the Star’s exhaustive look over the past week at the underpinnings and effects of poverty in our community, that thousands of our neighbors — specifically children — simply put, are poor.
The reasons are myriad. Tucson is a low-wage town. Rents are up, affordable child care is out of reach, public assistance has dried up and jobs are hard to come by. More kids live in single-parent families than two-parent homes. Drug and alcohol addiction is an underlying factor for many people, and treatment options are few.
All of this weighs kids down. It limits their futures, and that, in turn, has a negative effect on the entire community.
So we have a choice:
Do we confront the poverty in front of us — or do we wring our hands, say that’s too bad and carry on with our lives.
It’s a choice of what kind of poverty we will accept: the economic, educational and social shortcomings of a community, or the poverty of spirit that condemns children to a life without a better opportunity.
Which will it be?
It’s easy to read about the hardships Tucsonans face — particularly our youngest — and see the obstacles as too steep.
But think of it this way: If a child were standing in the middle of a busy street filled with potholes, you would help that boy or girl cross to safety. You would stop traffic, make drivers turn in a different direction and jump over the craters in the road.
You would do what needs to be done to help a child.
Many of you have.
Readers who were touched by the hardships faced by kids who attend Walter Douglas Elementary — a school profiled in a three-part series on the Star’s editorial pages — have asked how they can help. Some have made donations to the school, and others have said they want to give their time.
Dozens of schools across Pima County have students in similar financial straits — kids who don’t have shoes and clothes (including socks and underwear) that fit or pencils and paper for homework. There are plenty of places to make a difference.
These kids need you — they need help with meeting basic needs, but they also need us to tackle the bigger picture problems that create the trap of intergenerational poverty.
Kids need parents who can find and hold a job at a living wage and not have to leave their kids alone at home because they can’t afford good child care. They need a safe place to live and a stable family. They need parents who can go to the doctor when they need to, who can afford medications and who can get help kicking a drug or alcohol addiction. They need food on the table and a bed to sleep in.
If we keep these necessities in the forefront and work back from there, perhaps we can begin to see the tangled web of poverty in a new light. The answer isn’t as simple as giving everyone $1,000 or a rent-free apartment.
Tucson is fortunate to have many organizations, like Primavera and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, who are committed to helping people climb out of poverty. If there is something you’re passionate about, chances are more than good there’s an organization that can use your help.
We, as a community, can’t do it with money alone, although that certainly helps. Tucson’s kids need ideas. They need involvement. They need a commitment.
Our kids need you.