blog action day: poverty in austin

October 15, 2008

For Blog Action Day, my friend Bob Carlton (let’s be honest…he’s everybody’s friend) invited me to join a parade of Austinites to blog about the issues of poverty here in Austin.

I have to admit I have regretted it a bit. Like Julie, we’ve only been here for a few months. And what I’m really aware of is how easy (and dare I say chic) it is to be aware of global issues of poverty, and not really aware of what is happening locally. But I can share a few random observations from my experiences in Austin:

  • It is easy for me to go about my day seeing people who are mostly like me, at least in terms of economic levels. They live on my street, generally go to the same coffee shops and stores, and do similar recreational activities. But living in a new place means I have had been to state or county services three different times to register cars, get a driver’s license, and set up a non-profit. I admit I am evaluating based on appearances, but each time I’ve been reminded that not everyone shares a background similar to mine.
  • Near our home, there is a greenbelt with some trails meandering through it. Someone has set up “camp” right in the midst of it. This isn’t camping of the recreational kind, but someone making a temporary home until they told they can’t anymore. I can only assume they will then find another.
  • A few weeks ago, I joined my daughter for lunch at school. I think that she was more excited about getting to invite a friend to join her for a meal on the cafetorium stage — a privelege reserved for kids who have a visiting parent. Her friend shared that she has no bedroom, but sleeps on the couch in their family room every night.
  • Yesterday, my friend Sam gave me a tour of Space12, a new community center where he works in East Austin. As we talked afterward, he shared the complexities that are happening all around Austin (and many other urban areas). Middle and upper class families are moving in and the poor are moving further out. The poor are no longer found in what previously might have been considered the “inner city”.

Perhaps none of these situations is as extreme as what is happening in other parts of the world. But that doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. In our age of globalism, where we can be in touch with what is happening in any country through wifi and web browsers, I hope we don’t lose touch with those we can actually touch. Stories like what I have glimpsed above are all around Austin. The truth is, it feels like there is more potential cost, more potential risk, for me to engage locally then globally. I hope I — I hope we — can rise to such a challenge.

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