What is the link between poverty and economic development? To cut to the chase, what I really began to see was that we needed to put a new frame on this conversation on poverty. Otherwise we weren’t going to be able to get as much traction and investment in the community as we could. I often start my presentations by saying the irony is that poverty is expensive. It’s expensive on an individual level, clearly, and I even have some stats that show people in poverty pay 6% more for their toilet paper. I found a research paper with an interesting math equation that actually proves that!

But here in this context, we’re talking about the community, and poverty puts a drain on our resources, right? We can see that we have to divert a certain amount of our resources to helping people. The deeper people are in poverty, the greater we need those resources. A homeless person, for example, needs far more resources to get to stability than somebody who might be in the working poor category. But all of those resources put a strain on the community and waste human potential. It locks up all of those gifts that somebody has.

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Bonnie Bazata is the program manager of Ending Poverty Now in Pima County, Arizona, and was formerly the executive director of St. Joseph County Bridges Out of Poverty based in South Bend, Indiana.