What do the poor need? Try asking them.
August 9, 2015 6:41 PM   Subscribe

 
Didn't they call this "maximum feasible participation" in the War on Poverty? And didn't it turn out that some local bigwigs preferred poor people's disengagement from deciding their own fate as a feature not a bug?
posted by jonp72 at 6:48 PM on August 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't know the scoop on what happened at the local level, but maximum feasible participation during Johnson's War on Poverty in the Sixties ran into serious political issues at higher levels of government.
posted by storybored at 7:03 PM on August 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


storybored: "serious political issues at higher levels of government."

Hmm. I wonder if it was racism? *reads article* Okie dokie. I guess it was racism plus maybe a more generalized reaction to a threat to the established order?
posted by mhum at 7:50 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Local governance of policing in particular would be very valuable.
posted by grobstein at 8:04 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Settlement houses were very effective in a self - help approach to ending poverty. It was and remains a comprehensive approach.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:44 PM on August 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Local governance of policing in particular would be very valuable.

The police are governed locally. That's half the problem. The elected representatives don't reflect the makeup because only 10% of the electorate actually votes. The elected representatives are focused on either furthering the interests of the few (white) people that do vote, covering their own asses and making sure black people aren't beaten or shot is wayyyyyyyyyyy down on their list of stuff they give a shit about.
posted by Talez at 8:45 PM on August 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


The simplest answer, and one backed up by solid research, is just give them money. Don't give them food stamps. Don't give them housing subsidies. Don't give them school vouchers. Don't give them job training. Just give them cold cash. That's the best way to improve a poor person's life and the neighborhood.
posted by JackFlash at 9:58 PM on August 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


JackFlash, I don't know a lot about it, but everything I've read from the people who have done the studies is much more nuanced. Most folks have no idea if it scales past the pilots and how much better it is to other methods. And a lot of it seems to be about abject poverty in developing nations. A good Q and A here: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/20/ending-poverty-by-giving-the-poor-money/

At any rate, as someone who works in the nonprofit sphere, I was surprised to learn about the history of Community Action Centers a couple of years ago when I was assisting one on a strategy and planning project. There they are, still plugging away on this LBJ program! I was smitten. I lauded the participation of the community representatives in running things when I was talking with a couple of the staff members. They rolled their eyes. They have a hell of a time getting community participation and intimated that it made everything they do take much, much longer--at a time when the business sector is breathing down their necks saying "Hey, haven't you fixed homelessness/poverty/whathaveyou yet? Hurry up! You need to be more efficient. Think like a business!"
posted by Cassford at 11:14 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Different poor people need different things.

Also -- those are very big numbers (about which I have some mild skepticism) -- e.g. "secured jobs for 110,000." But always glad to see a community organization doing well.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:15 PM on August 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


The police are governed locally. That's half the problem. The elected representatives don't reflect the makeup because only 10% of the electorate actually votes. The elected representatives are focused on either furthering the interests of the few (white) people that do vote, covering their own asses and making sure black people aren't beaten or shot is wayyyyyyyyyyy down on their list of stuff they give a shit about.

Depends what you mean by "local." This varies by place, but my impression is that police policy affecting urban cores and "bad neighborhoods" is generally set at the level of much larger political subdivisions, so that e.g. white suburbs and rich neighborhoods get a big say in how police behave in inner cities. I'm not, like, an expert on this stuff (and maybe what I thought I knew is out of date).

For those interested, this is the main thesis of the late Bill Stuntz's book, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice.
posted by grobstein at 7:11 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, we tried this in the greater D.C. area as part of The War On Poverty in the sixties. We were told that the poor people know how to get themselves out of poverty and that we should listen to them at Koffee Klatches we set up in all the neighborhoods and then implement whatever the people come up with. We were promised back-up for anything, because whatever the poor folks wanted had to be the solution. Back-up failed to come through. We made promises to people that we couldn't keep. Of course, this was no surprise to our clients since their whole lives promises had been made and broken. I actually still do think that some implementation of this idea may work, but not the way ours was set up or not with the politicians and bureaucrats we had to deal with. A few people were actually helped but some of that was accidental. My favorite part was that I was being paid to hang out with some really fine people who also happened to be winos. RIP Rico.
posted by Hobgoblin at 10:04 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


The simplest answer, and one backed up by solid research, is just give them money

Yes. This. 'Asking the poor' is still saying that anything getting better is conditional on someone else approving whatever initiative. Money. Universal basic income. Healthcare, both mental and physical.

Cash. Cold hard cash. Speaking as an actual poor person, that's what we need. Money. Not yet another well-meaning 'program' by people mouthing platitudes. It's really simple; what is the defining characteristic of being poor? A lack of money.

It's like, if someone's hungry, give them some damn food.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:22 AM on August 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


With an annual budget of $270 million, the network serves more than half a million people.

I've never seen a more clear example of "just give them the money you dolts" than this (though the civic participation stuff was admittedly pretty cool).
posted by zug at 11:28 AM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]




I think what shoved me over to the "just cash" side was the stat (probably cited here) about how most if not all of money you give to a poor person is spent locally. It was a head-slapping moment...well, duh! Of course it would be. They're going to buy things they need close by, and they need a lot, so they'll spend most of it. And then businesses prosper, and so on and so on.

Money is basically like blood; if it's blocked up and piles up it festers and turns gangrenous. It needs to circulate to do any good.
posted by emjaybee at 1:47 PM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hey journalists, could you stop using the phrase "the poor"? I get that headline space is valuable real estate, but I cringe hardcore whenever I see this embarrassing people-last language that taints the rest of the message.
posted by threeants at 8:19 PM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


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