Message from NPLS Executive Director Victoria Coyle
Posted by Victoria A. Coyle on May 30, 2014
Paul Ryan speaks to our need to develop a “civil society” and to “resuscitate our culture” as a way of reducing reliance on the government to fix urban blight. He urges people to take action when they have driven past a blighted area on their way to a sporting event at a downtown venue. Of course, he doesn’t give an example of how that blight is to be remedied, other than perhaps giving to a “religious charity” or “whatever.”
Needless to say, Rep. Ryan misses the point, as do many of those people who always drive by poverty on their way to a sporting, or other event. Like him, they can generally be classified into a group who want to reduce the assistance that goes to people living in poverty. It seems the premise for this group is that poor people just don’t do enough for themselves and, perhaps, if we cut back the dollars we give them, they might be encouraged to work a little harder, become more entrepreneurial, or just spend their money more wisely.
North Penn Legal Services has been providing legal help to people in poverty for 50 years. I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here by saying that the article I’ve linked below is representative of the clients we represent. People come to us because circumstances have catapulted them into a legal crisis (or crises) which they can’t navigate without legal assistance. They are desperate, not because they were too lazy, but perhaps because the only household income is from a disability payment and it’s insufficient to pay monthly bills, let alone legal fees.
Not only is the daily cost of living out of reach for many of our clients, so is a fundamental cornerstone of our society: access to justice.
I urge you to read this article. Whether you want to be a stronger advocate in the face of comments such as Paul Ryan’s, or you just want to be a more sensitive volunteer in your community, you will find it enlightening.