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Catholic Charities help break the cycle of poverty for unemployed

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

For many urban dwellers, accustomed to a life of substance abuse and unemployment, there is no way out. Their days are spent looking for safe places to stay and spare-changing others to feed their habits. But there are success stories. Catholic Charities of Baltimore set 49-year-old Antonio Hammond on the road to recovery and has won him new self-respect.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Hammond says he wound up in Baltimore three years ago, addicted to crack cocaine and snorting heroin. He financed his habit by breaking into cars and stealing copper pipes out of crumbing structures.

No more - after 18 months after finding his way to Catholic Charities via a rehabilitation center, the Philadelphia native is back in the work force. Hammond now earns $13 an hour cleaning laboratories for the Biotech Institute of Maryland. A tax-paying member of society, Hammond is clean and sober.

Living with two roommates in housing subsidized by the charity, Hammond got his driver's license and bought a car. What he marvels at the most is that he has been accepted after a 20-year absence by some of his nine children. "At least I know now they might not hate me," he says.

Catholic Charities, which runs a number of federally funded programs, spent $18,000 from privately donated funds to turn around Hammond's life through the organization's Christopher's Place program which provides housing and support services to recovering addicts and former prisoners.

However, these life-changing programs are in danger as billions in federal U.S. government spending cuts begin squeezing services for the poor nationwide.

Poverty is all encroaching in contemporary American life. The U.S. Census Bureau puts the number of Americans in poverty at levels not seen since the mid-1960s when President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the federal government's so-called War on Poverty.

As President Barack Obama began his second term in January, nearly 50 million Americans, or one in six were living below the income line that defines poverty, according to the bureau. A family of four that earns less than $23,021 a year is defined as living in poverty.

The bureau said 20 percent of the country's children are poor.

Spending cuts, known as the sequester, are going to hit poverty programs especially hard. "Before the sequester, only half of the need was being met. Now, after the cuts fully take effect, there will be 900 children already in the program who won't be able to take part," William McCarthy, executive director of Catholic Charities says.

There is no question the national belt-tightening "will deepen and increase poverty," McCarthy says.

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