Of Picket Fences and Poverty

What if I told you that our suburban communities are facing a bigger poverty crisis than our nations big cities?

If you had told me that a few years ago, I would have said, “no way!”

I live in a suburban community – Santa Clarita, California.

If you drive through our city you’ll see 3, 4, and 5 bedroom homes with multiple cars parked in driveways and an occasional luxury vehicle hiding away in the garage.

From my experience in suburbia, poverty happens “over there”.

It’s an issue we try to disassociate ourselves from.

When we think about poverty, we often think about L.A.’s Skid Row or a commercial we saw for World Vision – but we don’t usually think about the people in our suburban community.

Quite frankly, we don’t like the stigma of poverty. We are more concerned with climbing the proverbial ladder than helping those who fell off – or jumped.

Yet, suburban communities are facing a bigger poverty crisis than our nations big cities.

Not only does poverty exists in suburban communities – in the United States there are more people living below the poverty line in suburban communities than there are in big cities.

Don’t believe me? Check out this data.

Data Source: Census data. Graphic from: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/01/suburbs-and-the-new-american-poverty/384259/

Data Source: Census data.
Graphic from: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/01/suburbs-and-the-new-american-poverty/384259/

Heck, this is even happening in flourishing areas.

In Santa Clarita, the suburban community I live in, 9% of the population live below the poverty line.

In our city, nearly 12% of the children live below the poverty line.

According to census data, that would mean there are around 16,000 people living below the poverty line in our city. Nearly 7,000 of them are kids.

Poverty is real and growing in suburban communities.

You and I must have eyes to see those who are invisible to many around us.

We must have eyes to see those who are on the margins of our community- those living in poverty and those forgotten by society.

Jesus loved.

He LOVED the poor.

He LOVEd THE RICH.

He LOVED the widows.

He LOVED the orphans.

HE LOVED the outcasts of His time.

He called us to love others. 

These ideas transcend cultures – they apply to our suburban context.

We were given the Holy Spirit, so that we could love like he loved – so that you and I could do even greater things.

You and I must open our eyes and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in how to love others, including those living on the margins in our communities – whether in a city, farm town or suburban community.

We can start by taking one small step.

I took a small step. A year and a half ago, I started I started volunteering helping kids with their homework through a city program at the Park Sierra apartment complex on Jakes Way.

Now, my heart is growing for the Jakes Way area – particularly the Park Sierra apartment complex. I have been listening to stories and saving news articles.

The community in the Jakes Way area full of violence and many of the kids and youth are struggling.

In 2015 alone 3 males were shot and killed – others were shot and injured. There was a dead body found at the bottom of the bridge near Jakes Way.

Many of the crimes involved kids; a man was sentenced for the attempted kidnapping and rape of a 13 year-old girl that was sitting at the bus stop.

But not all of the kids are innocent; the police caught 13-14 year old kids stealing thousands of dollars worth of stuff from an apartment in Park Sierra.

We can’t do everything.

We can’t change anyone.

But, we can take a small step to get involved and be the salt and light in our community.

I am considering what the next step is for me. I want to get more involved in that community (possibly moving in to an apartment there), but in order to do so I need a few people who want to get involved with me.

So, let’s keep our eyes open to the people around us and our heart sensitive to how best we can reach out to them. Let’s know our neighbors and love our neighbors.

If you are interested in possibly getting involved in Park Sierra, shoot me an email: brandonkmaddux@gmail.com

Honored to have you read this.
- Brandon Maddux