Before Mayor Bill Bell made poverty relief a city priority last winter, public agencies and private nonprofits were already setting up or actually at work, on their own, to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life in Tract 10.01. Here is a look at two of them.
“Relationships Equipping Allies and Leaders” is a project in formation by End Poverty Durham, a 10-year-old network of congregations and social-service programs. REAL Durham ( bit.ly/1vkk64I) matches families in poverty with four middle-class “allies” for mutual benefit: The allies act as advisors and provide a support network for the family to achieve economic self-sufficiency; the family introduces the allies to the realities of poverty and the human beings who live and deal with it.
“This is an investment of social capital, of human energy, of middle class people with people who struggle with material poverty,” said Mel Williams, who started End Poverty Durham with fellow minister Haywood Holderness.
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The format is “a national evidence-based best practice,” Williams said. “Nationally, outcomes are increased incomes, increased assets, decreased debt, decreased reliance on public assistance and four people you can count on,” Williams said. “This is an investment of social capital, of human energy, of middle-class people with people who struggle with material poverty.”
Shepherd’s House United Methodist Church
Formerly Carr United Methodist Church, a few years ago it was “a church of old white folks,” said neighborhood resident Steve Hopkins, “and now it’s been breathed new life.” In 2008, the members, who numbered only about 40, gave their building to a growing congregation of Zimbabwean immigrants that had been meeting at the church and had already established an after-school program for neighborhood children.
Now, besides being a place of worship, the renamed church provides office space for several nonprofit organizations, including the East Durham Children’s Initiative and the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. Its back yard is a neighborhood-tended park with a children’s playground, its fellowship hall and sanctuary are neighborhood meeting spaces, and a number of nearby residents have joined the congregation.
“Shepherd House UMC is a community which responds actively to human needs,” says the church’s website ( bit.ly/1nUkjri), “and we go into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ.”