Connecting the Dots: Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change & Poverty

This article was originally published in the April 2013 Issue of Sojourners Magazine.

Image: Hurricane collage, Amir Ridhwan / Shutterstock.com

OVER THE PAST few years, we have seen tangible proof that creation is terribly off balance. Global warming is causing droughts and heat waves around the world and is making hurricanes more powerful. In my hometown of New York City, we have experienced the effects of severe weather: Hurricane Irene in 2011 and, most recently, the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy was an eye-opening demonstration that climate change is a poverty issue, a race issue, and an immigration issue.

Though neighborhoods of all socioeconomic statuses were affected by Sandy, poorer communities are taking longer to recover. Many of them were without electricity, heat, and water longer than were more affluent communities. For instance, residents of Red Hook’s public housing projects in Brooklyn were without power and water for two weeks after the storm. My cousin Dabriah Alston, a Red Hook resident, told me that the city ignored residents’ repeated requests for information about when the heat would come back on: “The bottom line is, they don’t care about us. Projects are filled with poor folk, and as we all know, the poor are seldom a priority.”
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Vintage Post: What New Monastics Can Learn From The Settlement House Movement

* First posted on Sojourners God’s Politics Blog in October 2008 as apart of a larger conversation about Christian Intentional Communities (or New Monastic Communities), race and class.

One of America’s earliest settlement houses

The settlement house movement is the foundation of public welfare in the United States. Beginning in the early 19th century within the immigrant enclaves of New York City and Chicago, this movement was led predominately by white middle class Christians who relocated to these communities to live together, serve, and evangelize the poor. During this period the immigrant enclaves of America’s major cities were the abandoned places of the empire. The settlement house movement was the foundation for the field of social work and quite possibly the earliest form of “inner-city ministry.” Out of this work of relocation and social service came the “settlement house,” which was an institution that provided for the social, physical, and spiritual needs of the immigrant poor. The “settlement house movement” became very popular during this era, and some of these institutions have endured until today. I spent many summers working for Hamilton Madison House, one of New York City’s oldest and largest settlement houses. My work at this institution gave me the opportunity to serve immigrant populations who were facing the same issues of poverty that my inner-city African-American community faced.

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