US Catholic Faith in Real Life

War on poverty: 50 years and still going strong

By Caitlyn Schmid | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

It seems as though we have celebrated a myriad of 50th anniversaries lately. With Doctor Who and the March on Washington both celebrating their semicentennial years within the last few months, today marks another 50th anniversary.

On January 8, 1964, former President of the United States Lyndon B. Johnson gave his State of the Union Address to millions of Americans. During his speech, Johnson declared an “unconditional war on poverty.” He cited a lack of education, housing, health care, as a few reasons for poverty. Not having a decent neighborhood in which to live and raise children was another. Racism and joblessness were two more.

The battles have been fought for 50 years, but the war is long from over. Here are some graphs from the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities of the progress we've made and the work to be done.

Poverty has long left the inner city stereotypes—you may be surprised to find it even in suburban America. Catholics around the country have been fighting against poverty for over 50 years through countless organizations and collaboration.

They are fighting for better education for children and adult. Education is harmed by living under the poverty line. It affects classroom engagement and effort, how students perform on tests, their mental well-being while in the classroom, and their relationships with their peers.

Catholics are voicing their support for housing and shelter—a basic human need—for millions of Americans who suffer from homelessness. (These people have been on my mind a lot lately during this cold winter spell as I count my blessings venturing from my warm office in downtown Chicago to my warm apartment on the city's Northside.) There are even states passing bills of rights for their protection.

They are pleading Congress to step it up and protect more than a million Americans whose unemployment benefits expired in December.

We have made strides in eliminating poverty in America, but there is much work to be done. Get involved. Go into your community and help. Write to your congresspeople. Fifty years has not been enough time to come together and protect the men, women, and children living under the poverty line. Hopefully it doesn't take another 50 years.