To alleviate poverty and homelessness, Chicago needs job training and affordable housing. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

On World Day of the Poor, let’s pledge to provide a safety net for those in need

SHARE On World Day of the Poor, let’s pledge to provide a safety net for those in need
SHARE On World Day of the Poor, let’s pledge to provide a safety net for those in need

A few months ago, the front page headline of the Sun-Times read simply: Hope Lost.

Photos of men, women, and children who had been shot lined the page. That headline and those images stayed with me. Yet I believe that as a city, we can come together and change that headline to: Hope Found.

Every day we see the effects of poverty, whether it’s violent crime and the headlines we grow numb to about the number of shooting victims, or the vacant lots that riddle our neighborhoods, strewn with garbage and surrounded by barbed wire. We see men and women seeking jobs and a hand up, not a handout.

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November 18 is World Day of the Poor, a day Pope Francis calls on us to search for ways to alleviate the burden of poverty on our neighbors.

We must provide services for job-seekers whose skills do not match today’s job market. Without investment in job training, we will continue to see those who desire to lift themselves and their families out of poverty move further behind.

We also must address the growing lack of affordable housing. It is astounding to me that there is not a single place in the U.S. where a full-time worker earning minimum wage can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Government, banks and other financial institutions must work with the social service sector to create more affordable housing and offer homelessness assistance. A groundbreaking study by theWilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities, conducted with Catholic Charities, found that those who receive short-term housing assistance are 65% less likely to enter a shelter.

We know social safety net programs work, moving people out of poverty and onto a path of self-sufficiency. For any program or idea to succeed, though, we must integrate it with other programming and work with partners to address the holistic needs of each person: jobs, education, food, and housing.

On this World Day of the Poor, let’s pledge to work together as “Good Samaritans” to change the headlines. We know that in Chicago, hope can be found.

Monsignor Michael Boland, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago

Stop junk health insurance

State lawmakers must protect small business owners from the rising healthcare costs that would result if the Illinois market is flooded with junk, short-term health insurance plans. Legislators must override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill that would limit these short-term plans to six months and provide strong consumer protections alongside the plans.

The bill is needed to counteract a Trump administration rule authorizing the expansion of short-term plans, allowing them to last up to 364 days and to be renewed for up to three years. If this rule is not blocked by the bill, Senate Bill 2388, many people will be lured away from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace by low-quality, cheap health plans. These plans may look like a good value, but in reality, they cover almost nothing, including pre-existing conditions. They also can charge more based on your health, age and gender, and exclude essential services like mental health care, hospital care and prescription drugs.

If a significant number of younger and/or healthier people abandon the ACA marketplace, it will be very bad news for the entrepreneurs and small business employees that depend on the marketplace for quality, affordable insurance. Without healthy people paying for good plans, to offset the costs of caring for older or sicker people, ACA premiums will rise drastically, and many small business owners, employees and low-income people will be priced out of the market.

Stephanie Becker, East Loop

Keep our guns

In a recent letter “America, follow Australia’s lead and enact tough gun laws,” Ted Manuel advocates ending private ownership of guns in order to prevent mass shootings. This would confer a monopoly on gun possession to our government; the police and the military would continue having guns.I am not comfortable with this consequence.

While I do not support gun control, I do favor disarmament. Let’s start with the military laying down its guns, and then the police. When that is done, we can start talking about having the people give up their guns.

I don’t believe there is a simple solution to mass killings. A first step might be to step away from regarding the killers as berserk lunatics whose actions are unfathomable. Perhaps we need to admit to ourselves that they are human beings, that each of us may be capable of doing what they have done, and of trying to understand them, the “why?” of their actions. The more we understand, the more wisely we may act. Beyond that, taking care of one another, connecting with

others in a positive way is, I suspect, important. People who have reasons to live have less desire to kill.

Bert Rice, Hyde Park

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