Heavy weather stories are often carried far and wide. And then are promptly dumped for some other easy-to-handle, self-contained media topic. Buffalo’s insane recent few days of lake effect snow has been a typical example. Impressive images of the speed and ferocity of the snow preceded features of the neighbours-helping-neighbours type. Then the news machine simply moves on. That’s why we liked this item on The Buffalo News.
See also: (421) Let it snow
Short features in response to the Brookings Institution’s new book Confronting Suburban Poverty have been accumulating steadily from all over America. This is one from just across the Canadian border in Buffalo, NY and it features a visit to a drop in centre.
Drop in centres provide court quality evidence of the existence of suburban poverty should anyone happen to need it. They are usually informal, volunteer- and donation-driven places where people exiting the middle class often have their first encounter with the realities of downward mobility. Located in ad hoc premises most of the time and frequently sponsored by religious organizations with or without a bit of official help they have formed a major component of many a community response to suburban poverty. They can be fairly powerful places despite their challenges.
Coffee-and-carbs, water and juice are usually on offer and there are efforts made at helping out with used clothing, food, bus tickets, footwear, meals, diapers, school supplies, household items. Referrals and all kinds of advice are their stock-in-trade. Drop in centres sometimes don’t look like much but when well run they can attract a surprising array of helpers and donations: everything from a no longer needed suit for a job interview to pizza leftover from a corporate meeting. Before long a good drop in centre becomes a focal point for a number of practical relationships and associations directly responding to immediate needs.
It can be stressful trying to maintain consistent levels of help to a large group of people in difficulty. Boundaries are challenged constantly, but amazing things happen in the drop ins and positive anecdotes grow fast, at times by the day. In moving past describing suburban poverty to relieving suburban poverty there could be worse things to do than strengthen the drop in centres.
image: post office building in Buffalo, NY by Pubdog via Wikimedia Commons
Is it too much a statement of the obvious to cross connect the decline of manufacturing in western countries with suburban poverty? Buffalo, NY, which is now the third poorest city in the United States, would seem to be a case in point. An economy dominated by financial services seems to act as a vast wealth collector for the super elites. A manufacturing economy does the same but required inputs of labour which in turn required wages be paid out to the wider community. It could also be said that there was an integrity, a moral good to be had in making the things one uses.