I cannot remember how many times I have heard someone comment that the way governmental aid programs, like welfare and the like, are constructed actually increase dependence in people rather than helping people improve their situation and get to the point where those aid programs are no longer needed.
But I also don’t recall hearing anyone give an actual reason why this is the case. The article linked above does a very good job at explaining why.
And it’s just not with governmental programs that dependence increases but also church-based charity. I think the problem truly enters when “chronic” needs are seen as the same as “crisis” needs.
“Crisis” needs are those immediate needs that are caused by occurrences like a natural disaster. They are emergency needs. The problem enters, as Robert Lupton states in the linked article, when we give “emergency responses to what is clearly chronic poverty, not a sudden, temporary crisis.”
It is when we give emergency responses to chronic situations that we are actually increasing a person’s level of dependency and charity becomes its own worst enemy.
The interview with Robert Lupton set me to thinking. Here in First Baptist’s building, we house a clothes closet that is free to anyone who comes in. And we have many who are repeat visitors, so it is apparent, I believe, that the need is a chronic one, not one from crisis, but is being met with emergency responses.
So, out of our desire to help people, are we in reality exacerbating the problem by causing a greater degree of dependency in people by just giving them clothes anytime they come in without there being any exchange of resources on their part in order to make use of the Closet?
I have a couple of ideas circulating in my head, but I am unsure of the legality of them. So, I need to do some research, because the last thing I want to advocate is something that is illegal to do. And that wouldn’t be very good.
But what I definitely want to do is help people break a cycle of dependency.