POOR Magazine and Homefulness

I’m writing today about POOR Magazine. POOR Magazine is

a poor people led/indigenous people led, grassroots non-profit, arts organization dedicated to providing revolutionary media access, art, education and advocacy to silenced youth, adults and elders in poverty across the globe.

I want write a inspiring little blog post, one worthy of its subject, but I don’t know where to start, and I’m afraid I won’t do it justice. So, I’ve been procrastinating for over a week.

At first, I thought I’d start with how I found out about POOR — I first heard about POOR from a friend I really admire and respect. However, I decided that wasn’t the right approach. The focus should be on the organization, not on the friend.

I then thought that I would perhaps begin with facts about why POOR is so important and relevant. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 43.6 million people were in poverty in 2009. That number is roughly equivalent to the entire populations of the states of Texas and New York combined. However, POOR is about empowering people in poverty, not masking them into a statistic or viewing them as a group to be saved or pitied, so that isn’t really the right angle either.

So, I’m just going to be honest. This piece isn’t a work of literary brilliance or an essay carefully crafted for maximum impact, but it’s from the heart.

This interview between Tyrone Boucher and Tiny (a.k.a. Lisa Gray-Garcia) does an excellent job of covering what POOR is about. POOR does amazing work. The people at POOR have a radical new conception of how to frame the conversation about poverty, how to work toward ending poverty. People who experience poverty are often ignored, devalued, and silenced by traditional structures; POOR, however, does the opposite. POOR believes in poverty scholarship, which means

valuing lived experience over formal education. It means that the people who are best equipped to report and teach about poverty, racism, police violence, etcetera, are the people who experience it.

POOR’s Homefulness project is transformative. It isn’t about charity or assuming that the system works and people simply need to learn how to live by it. It isn’t about viewing people who live in poverty are “other” or creating temporary solutions. Tiny says in the interview,

Homefulness is a project that we’re working towards, rooted in the landlessness (we don’t use “homelessness” anymore) of so many of our people. It’s a sweat-equity cohousing model, meaning that people [will] work in the community in exchange for living there. It includes gardens, microbusinesses, community spaces—it could be small, it could be large, but the idea is about moving off the grid of social-service management of poor people’s lives. It’s about creating healing and equity for landless, urban, indigena families. As a permanent solution to landlessness.

Learning about POOR and Homefulness has been fascinating. They have, in many ways, very new ideas of how to conceptualize and discuss money, people, and poverty; they’ve challenged and broadened my previous notions. I really recommend checking out their website and the interview; they also have links to donate if you feel so inclined.

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