Multi-Dimensional Poverty Solutions for Multi-Dimensional Humans

By Gabrielle Temaat

As conservatives, as people of faith, and as human beings, one of our primary duties is to care for our neighbors. Part of this means ensuring that the 12.3 percent of Americans who live in poverty can have their basic physical needs met. Ideally, this is what everyone would associate conservatism with. 

 We’ve seen that some welfare and foreign aid does more harm than good, indicating that addressing poverty requires a level of “care, concern, and discipleship not well suited to detached top-down ‘solutions,’” as stated by Joseph Sunde of the Acton Institute.

 There are many effective ways to take care of our low-income neighbors that don’t grant the state more power. Cutting back on wasteful government spending, such as the $500 million that goes to Planned Parenthood every year, and redirecting that money to private charities is one of many ways of doing so.

 The National Christian Foundation, for example, is one of the largest donor-based funds in the U.S. with grants totaling $960 million last year. These funds benefit thousands of churches and charities that in turn reduce poverty and provide assistance to those in need. 

We ought to not only be mindful of the types of solutions we implement but also the nature of the needs of the poor, which are not only material. Multi-dimensional humans require more than one-dimensional solutions. Poverty is often a result of broken relationships, social and spiritual deprivation, or brokenness of other kinds. 

 Brian Fikkert, author of When Helping Hurts, brilliantly addresses this idea. Combatting material deprivation requires a shift in perspective. Fikkert writes, “The goal is not to turn the poor neighborhoods in Kansas City into the wealthy neighborhoods of Kansas City. The goal is not to turn Kampala, Uganda into Kansas City. The goal is to turn the whole thing into New Jerusalem.”

The Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP) is an amazing example of an organization who treats poverty and homelessness as a multi-faceted issue. ISP hosts spiritual retreats for the homeless in 20 cities across the United States. Through this program over 400 volunteers work with homeless people who often struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.

 Conservatism must stand for more than small government, low taxes, and economic freedom. It is our job, by word and deed, to communicate that conservatism signifies care and compassion for all, and we must dispel an overly materialist view of poverty. We should focus on implementing poverty solutions, but also readjust our rhetoric and approach regarding the issue. We have a moral responsibility to help the poor, and in order to do that effectively, we must accept the responsibility of associating conservatism with care and compassion for those in need. 



Gabrielle Temaat is a senior at Arizona State University studying economics. She is currently working as a writing tutor at ASU and a communications intern at the Acton Institute.



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