Basic Needs: The Suburbanization of Poverty
Written By: Chisulo Mulenga, LT'17
Images by: Rick Meade, LT'12
Held at Green River College in Kent, WA, LT'18 examined the growing number of people experiencing poverty in South King County. The class learned about the drivers of poverty and racial inequities, how they play out in suburban South King County, and what local organizations are doing to support basic needs in the community.
Panel: Suburban Voices
Panelists: Joey Ager, The Church Council of Greater Seattle; Vicki Foege, LT'14, HomeStreet Bank; Satwinder Kaur, Councilmember, City of Kent
Moderator: Sara Levin, LT'04, Curriculum Committee
Although the panelists represented different perspectives (business, political and faith), their remarks shared a common theme: the importance of community and connection. Satwinder Kaur emphasized that because communities are physically connected to each other, coordination and relationship-building should be a top priority. This sentiment was echoed when Joey Ager stated, "When we are connected to one, we are connected to all."
Site Visits and Funder Pitch
Splitting into eight groups, the class visited local organizations that are supporting basic needs in the community.
The class learned about the issues that the organizations' clients face, explored how the organization and its leadership work with others to meet their goals, and gathered information to prepare a pitch to funders based on the leadership they observed.
Following the site visits, the groups presented to actual Seattle-area funders. Class members advocated for their site visit hosts to receive a small donation to honor leadership excellence. Though not a realistic rehearsal for grant-seeking, the exercise did provide the opportunity to highlight the leadership principles the class has learned about this year and to acknowledge the many effective leaders working in South King County.
Mark Okazaki, Executive Director, Neighborhood House
Mark Okazaki described anti-poverty work as being hard, and even harder in the suburbs. He reminded us that we live in relationship to one another, should always pay attention, and use the political power we have as leaders.
When asked if there was one policy change he could magically make, he simply replied, "Imagine if there was a policy in the U.S. that ensured that every family had access to education, housing, employment and healthy food options."