To the Editor,
I was heartened that during his visit to New York City, Pope Francis shed light on the prevalence of poverty across the globe. Almost anywhere you go, you only need to look around to see that poverty rages rampant in our city, country and world. Sadly, in 2015—203 years since the New York City Mission Society was founded—our work is now more critical than ever.
Consider that more than 2 out of every 5 people living in New York City live in poverty. That is nearly 2 million men, women and children, many of them without homes or food to put on the table. If you factor in all of those living just barely above the poverty line, the number rises to nearly half of our city’s population.
Those who we serve sadly are at the bottom of the economic ladder: 5 percent live in shelters or transitional housing; 55 percent have food insecurities; 86 percent live at or below the poverty line; and 93 percent of our students attend failing or below-average schools.
These numbers illustrate the harsh realities that derail, for so many, the American Dream. Each day, our staff faces the children, families, friends and neighbors who have had their dreams derailed, and sometimes extinguished.
We echo Pope Francis in our staunch belief that all deserve to live in dignity and that we can—and should—make a difference in others’ lives. We strive to level the playing field by providing the highest quality educational programs and support that inspire and empower the youth in our programs.
At times, it may seem like an uphill battle. But the good news is that we, like many others, will not settle. The Mission Society resolves to address these problems over the long term, because no matter the month, year or century, poverty breaks hearts and strangles dreams.
Elsie McCabe Thompson is president of the New York City Mission Society.