Central Florida is home to some incredible groups helping fight homelessness, hunger, poverty, and the problems of the overlooked in our communities.
Why then do these problems persist?
It’s not for lack of effort, poor direction, or low funding; it’s limited resources. The need is so great that these organizations cannot gather enough resources to simply keep pace. Homeless shelters are full. Many times, feeding programs run out of food before everyone is fed. Staffs of both aren’t large enough to take care of all the people who need their help and run their organizations. They fight to do the best they can with what they have and hope they can make a dent.
And they do—they make far more than a dent, but there is an abundance more to be done.
Some see this massive need and call for government to step in to help make a difference.
Yet, while governments can have the potential for much financial clout to throw at issues, governments’ efforts to solve complex social problems have historically proven to be band-aid solutions and often invitations for abuse of the system. For such monolithic organizations dependent on policy for permission, the social problems are overwhelming in scope, too nuanced, and too dependent on politicians to make significant progress at the ground level.
What’s more, leaving it to the powerful to figure things out for us unsuccessfully puts the responsibility to solve the issues on those who have accumulated wealth. The problem is deeper than a pool of money. History says the only way to change a systemic problem is to overwhelm the problem at the root of the cause.
So how do we attack the root?
We need to seek a grassroots effort to care for the marginalized and hurting.
This starts with us spending time in our neighborhoods, knowing and being known. Companies like Polis Institute and LIFT Orlando understand this and are doing their best to teach asset-based community development to help distressed communities throughout Central Florida—by linking together in the everyday joys and problems.
It’s not easy. It’s natural to care for self first, particularly when we don’t feel safe or content. In those times, we default to caring for self rather than using that energy to take on the problems of others.
But we can and should do better.
Though it's tempting to rely on businesses or the government to address our communities with underutilized resources and unmet needs, the best course of action is through us, the people. You and I can eliminate a host of tragic issues that affect us all.
We truly can affect positive, lasting change.