Many define “Poverty” as the state of human beings who suffer because of scarcity of material means of surviving: little or no food, shelter, clothes, healthcare, education, and, in general, of those means that would allow one's life to improve.
In reality, poverty goes far beyond economic deprivation. Dr. Ruby Payne, a widely quoted authority on the subject of poverty, defines it as the lack of key resources, as follows:
- Financial – Having the money to purchase goods and services
- Emotional – Being able to choose and control emotional responses, particularly to negative situations, without engaging in self-destructive behavior. This is an internal resource and shows itself through stamina, perseverance and choices.
- Mental – Having the mental abilities and acquired skills (reading, writing, computing) to deal with daily life. Education, especially Early Childhood Reading, GED, etc.
- Spiritual – Believing in divine purpose and guidance.
- Physical – Having physical health and mobility.
- Support Systems – Having friends, family, and backup resources available to access in time of need. These are external resources.
- Relationships/Role Models – Having frequent access to adult(s) who are appropriate, who are appropriate role models and who do not engage in self-destructive behavior.
- Knowledge of Hidden Rules – Knowing the unspoken cues and habits of a group.
- Coping Strategies – Being able to engage in procedural self-talk and the mindsets to move issues from the concrete to the abstract.
As a whole, Dr. Payne ideas are very useful in recognizing the cause(s) of a problem(s). Once understood, solutions become far more focused. Money may only be a part of the solution. A person may lack the ability to navigate the social welfare systems (due to health conditions, mental disabilities, or lack of transportation), or might not know how to file for unemployment, SNAP, Social Security benefits, etc. A person may need help in building a social support network. Dr. Payne’s work suggests that Vincentian assistance often needs to be more than paying a bill or delivering a box of food.