Tough times on Wall Street impact local charities (CNA)

Phoenix, Nov 22, 2008 / 05:11 pm (CNA).- Though many eyes are fixed on Wall Street, others are focused on local charitable organizations as they struggle to meet the increasing needs of the community while receiving fewer donations. The recent tough economic times have forced the charities to get creative with their programming and services.

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Tricia Hoyt, director of the Office of Peace and Justice at Catholic Charities, said the troubling times have forced charitable organizations to get creative.

She’s starting an “Out of Poverty” initiative that utilizes what she calls “circles of support.” Basically, a family stuck in poverty will have six to eight people in their circle helping them for a one-and-a-half to two-year commitment.

“They would be dedicating themselves to help that family form their dream plan and then would dedicate themselves to brokering the resources toward that family that will help them get there,” she said.

These circles of support aren’t meant to assist families in crisis right now, Hoyt said. There will always be a need for somebody to write a check that can get a family out of an immediate emergency. Rather, it’s a long-term plan to help families on the edge climb out of poverty, hopefully for good.

For instance, a member of a circle might be able to help a family member apply for a community college course that would yield a higher paying job. Or, a circle member might be able to help a member of the working poor find reliable transportation to a job.

The plan realizes that in the charitable giving axiom of “time, talent and treasure,” the treasure chest is at an all time low. But that doesn’t mean people can’t still help with their time or their talent.

Hoyt hopes the program will help build stable communities, where individuals can help each other out with their skills and time. Sometimes, even just listening to families can make a huge difference.

I think this approach is going to fail because in order to do charity effectively, you need to transfer resources to the unfortunate. Without that, any charitible action will be rendered ineffective. This might work if a hedge fund manager can be in the circle of support as that person has access to the requiste resources.

Unfortunately, there is going to be more poverty, misery, and humiliation ahead.

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