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Alternative Spring Break

Beneath the Surface: Exposing the Levels of Poverty in Jacksonville, FL

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About The Trip: 

This trip will focus on urban poverty, specifically on working with individuals affected by homelessness, families struggling to provide for themselves, male veterans, and people with disabilities. Though Florida often conjures up images of sun, beach, and relaxation, in 2014, one in every six Floridians was living in poverty. Our goal is to bring to light the hidden faces of poverty. Many people living below the poverty line experience difficulties in everyday life, facing stigma and fighting the cycle of poverty.

On this trip, we will volunteer with organizations that work to combat the aforementioned areas of urban poverty, including a soup kitchen, a clothing distribution center, an after school program, a food bank, and a nonprofit working with people with disabilities. Through our work we plan to attain a better understanding of urban poverty by examining its various levels and faces in order to gain a broader and deeper perspective. We aim to provide direct service to those we work with, empower their communities, and raise awareness about this social justice issue.

About the Social Justice Issue: 

Though it is not talked about, poverty is an issue that plagues all urban centers in the United States in some way, shape, or form. The effects of poverty often are interrelated, resulting in a vicious cycle. For example, poverty leads to poor living conditions and lack of resources, and bad sanitation can lead to health issues, which can cause disease due to lack of water and food. The issue has only become worse since the beginning of the 2007 recession, when the United States lost 8.7 million jobs, pushing 4 million more Americans under the poverty line, bringing the total number of those suffering from poverty to 44 million. Despite the end of the recession creating a slight decrease in the national poverty rate, the poverty level in Jacksonville is still growing in record numbers.

There is a variety of people who live below the poverty line, including children, veterans, people with disabilities, and those without homes. Though many recognize the issue of poverty, we may fail to immediately consider the various faces of it and the different, additional issues that must be fought. Florida alone is home to 25% of the nation’s homeless families. More surprisingly, of those living under the poverty level, 32% are under 5 years old, and 28.6% are ages 16 to 17. Living in poverty can cause incredible amounts of stress, especially for children during development, creating long term effects on cognitive development, making this issue even more crucial to tackle.

Additionally, Jacksonville is home to a significant amount of people with disabilities as among poor males, 29.3% have disabilities compared to a much lower 13.8% in the state as a whole. People with disabilities face discrimination, can have additional expenses, and are more likely to face material hardships (lack of food, rent, etc.). Furthermore, there are those who live under the poverty line because of challenges such as returning from war, single motherhood, and crime. These hidden faces of poverty are both real and insidious within the institution of poverty, making it difficult to escape the cycle. In order to fully address the issue of poverty, we cannot generalize it and will make it our goal to treat each person with the respect and importance they deserve.

About the Leaders: 

Julia Munslow is a College sophomore majoring in Psychology and Creative Writing / English. She is the Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor and a staff photographer at the Emory Wheel. Along with conducting research, she serves as a peer mentor in the SIRE program. She is also a member of the pulse and a SAPA Advocate.

Tyler Teresi is a College sophomore double majoring in International Studies and Philosophy. He is a member of the Emory International Relations Association and the Volunteer Emory Staff board. When not in class, he practices jiu-jitsu and plays baseball for Emory’s club team.

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