The New Poverty: Bright spots in an otherwise dim story
If Tuesday’s post was dim, discussing bleak statistics about the scope of what some are calling, “The Second Depression,” this one contains two brighter spots, interviews with the executive director of a young woman’s resource center and with a young woman entrepreneur who could have fallen into the hopeless syndrome of depression due to joblessness, but instead relied on a historic Iowa value: neighborhood (but with a digital twist).
Heather Soener heads the Young Women’s Resource Center, 705 E. 2nd Street, Des Moines, which helps girls and young women from every demographic.
You can check out the long list of programs and services here.
In our interview, Soener told me that the center does “a lot of prevention programming,” especially for young girls reaching the fifth grade. One of the things impacting their lives and normal development is unemployment. “Families are under great pressure with layoffs now.”
The center also focuses on a Latina group of girls, emphasizing their culture and roots and how some values might differ in the community. (The Latino/a Iowa cultures share a strong work ethic.) In both groups, the specter of unemployment echoes. “You hear things like, ‘My mom worked there for seven years, and now she has been laid off.’”
Layoffs at home and school have harsh side effects on girls, in particular. “They might develop trust issues,” Soener says, “or the ability to form relationships, being more cautious” because of the instability at the places where girls expect to find little or none. “The focus is elsewhere rather than on the children.”
Soener also tells an anecdote that underscores the worries of Carey L. Miller, executive director of the Iowa Food Bank, profiled Tuesday on this blog, about having insufficient resources to serve the hunger needs in the 42-county service area. We’ll include that telling anecdote in our story.
Speaking of which, we will file that on Thursday. Because I have an award-winning photographer in Dennis Chamberlin, I can do narrative journalism, relying on him to showcase our article in slide shows and pictures. That narrative will end with Suzanne Hull, with whom we shared coffee this morning at Smokey Row Coffee, 1910 Cottage Grove Ave, Des Moines.
Hull is a remarkable young entrepreneur, the creator of the Web site “Unemployed in Des Moines,” which provides advice and information about getting a job in addition to unemployment news, such as the recent extension of unemployment benefits for the 31,000 Iowans who have run out of benefits since June.
Suzanne, a 1999 Wartburg College graduate in economics and international business, was laid off twice this year and could have fallen into the syndrome associated with the new poverty, believing her work ethic and self-reliance could overcome any difficulty, even one as potentially dire as this economic one. Instead, she joined a business book club, networked within the community and then followed a piece of advice that led to an epiphany and change of attitude: She moved her laptop from the comfortable couch in the basement to the kitchen table, where she did some remarkable work, using Web 2.0 to foster interpersonal communication.
She created her own neighborhood for the unemployed in Des Moines, meeting in the same cafe every other week for informal networking. A lot of good has come out of Hull’s contribution, and others can learn from her example.
Read about that in The Register.