Poverty Awareness Month: Three ways to address wealth inequality

Preventing and reducing poverty in our communities means knocking down barriers to wealth. First, let’s look at poverty in Philadelphia, where we serve the most people:

  • More than 355,000 Philadelphians are living in poverty. Philadelphia has the highest poverty rate among the country’s biggest cities, at 22.7%. That’s one in five people.
  • Nearly 29% of children in Philadelphia live in poverty. That’s close to 3 in 10 kids who lack basic necessities like food, a safe and healthy home and medical care.
  • And 84% of minors born into poverty will still be living in poverty by their late 20’s.
  • One in four Black Philadelphians lives in poverty, which is about twice the rate as white residents. 
  • The poverty rate among Hispanic residents is also disproportionately high, at just over 33%.

Those numbers don’t include the thousands more residents who technically live above the poverty level but make below the area median income and struggle to pay the bills. In order to lift more families out of wealth inequality, we must create and expand access to these three essentials:

  • Financial Capability: Financial education is severely lacking in underserved and lower-income communities, as well as among young people and Black and Latino residents. By providing free, one-to-one financial counseling, we’re helping more people build strong financial habits that lead to healthier decisions and wealth-building. This uplifts entire communities and generations to follow too, as our clients pass down what they learned at Clarifi to neighbors, friends and family.
  • Homeownership: Homeownership is key to building wealth for most Americans. That’s why we prepare people for homeownership through pre- and post-purchase counseling. We also need to eliminate the long-term negative impacts of foreclosure and eviction. As the area’s largest housing agency that helped staff the first mediation court in the U.S., we advocate for homeowners and renters facing a housing crisis. Because the most affordable home is the one you’re currently in.
  • Capital: People need access to cash, and they deserve the dignity and autonomy to use it on their terms. With that in mind, we did two things. 1. We helped create a low-barrier home repair loan so more homeowners can preserve their most important asset. We can’t build our way out of the affordable housing crisis, but we can maintain the homes we have now, and for much cheaper. 2. We started giving out cash grants during the pandemic, and have disbursed more than $850,000 directly to clients. They’ve used the money to secure a stable home, save for a home purchase, invest in repairs, build emergency savings and more.

These solutions don’t come out of a vacuum: They’re a direct response to what our clients need right now and for financially healthy futures.