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January Blog: MLK and Economic Equity

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” 

— Martin Luther King Jr. Beyond Vietnam speech, 1967

This month we celebrate the life and impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., known throughout our country and the world as a prominent leader of the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 60s. Though Dr. King is often associated with speaking out on equality as related to race, he also spoke out frequently and vehemently on other forms of oppression - particularly the need for economic justice. 

When Dr. King marched on Washington for jobs and freedom 50 years ago, the federal minimum wage was $1.25 an hour. In today’s dollars, that guaranteed base wage would be around $11/hour. Instead, the federal minimum wage today is just $7.25 an hour, an amount that has not changed since 2009 (15 years ago)! 

While income inequality has always existed, and has always negatively affected people of color disproportionately to white people, there was an era of “relative shared prosperity” until the 1970s (when the rich made money, so did everyone else). Since the 1970s however, there has been a continual and drastic shift in prosperity - the top 1% of earners have made over 4x as much while those in the middle 60% and bottom 20% of earners increased only marginally. 

What does this mean for us and those that we work with? It means that programs that increase access to economic equity- like the Housing Choice Voucher program that has its annual Voucher Lottery this week in Central Oregon- can be life-changing for households. However, as we read in our Meet our Community article this month, being selected for the program doesn’t guarantee housing or financial stability. Recipients must overcome barriers and hurdles to be able to use the Voucher they have been awarded, and sadly some hurdles are just too high. 

Through Thrive’s partnership with our local housing department, Housing Works, households that would like support in the application and leasing process can request our assistance. We work with folks as a support system and info bank - answering questions, communicating with landlords and Housing Works staff, and helping folks to overcome the barriers that may have been difficult to tackle on their own. Since the beginning of our partnership in August 2023, we have helped 19 voucher-holding households find their home in Central Oregon 🏡💚

More info and apply for the Housing Voucher Lottery - OPEN THIS WEEK ONLY: click here

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