You’re Right. It’s Not About the Cell Phones


March 9, 2017 

Contact: Deborah Chambers 
Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Outreach 
Cell: 202-534-9965

You’re Right. It’s Not About the Cell Phones


Washington, DC—March 9, 2017 – We’re glad the Washington Post chose to highlight poverty in today’s article “Laziness isn’t why people are poor and iphones aren’t why they lack health care mostly because that is the exact problem that Central Union Mission has been fighting for over 130 years. 

Certainly it is comforting to believe that your hard work will provide you a safe future. In old-fashioned America past, your strong back and determined work ethic would provide for you, but times have changed. It’s time to dispel the myth. 

We are no longer an agrarian society that rewards hard labor with bread. Making your way in this world requires sophisticated understanding to which a growing number of Americans have no access. We need to employ our empathy–or at least use our imagination–to consider that often people are unable to provide for themselves due to circumstances beyond their control. 

Are You Really Self-Made? 
Consider your first job: How did you hear about it? Who taught you how to present yourself in your interview and how to speak professionally and respectfully? Did you have reliable transportation to get there? Did you have a safe place to sleep and a way to clean your clothes? Did you even have the right clothes?  

When you consider that many people in DC have none of these advantages, you can see how all the “hard work” in the world will not help them. Then to suggest that their priorities are wrong because they have a cell phone is to cut off the one connection that they can manage for themselves. As we have heard all day, life’s little luxuries don’t usually add up to rent payments. 

Often homeless people who come to our shelter tell me, “I never thought I’d end up here.” It wasn’t laziness that brought them. It was mundane issues like: “My girlfriend broke up with me, so I had to move out”; “I was laid off and late on my rent so my landlord locked me out, and I lost all my stuff”; “I know I have diabetes, but I have no money for medicine.”  

Aren’t there Programs for That? 
Why don’t poor people apply for public services? What if they don’t know how to negotiate the bureaucracy that guards the services? Apply for public housing? How can you manage while you’re on the two-year waiting list? Central Union Mission tries to help people through this maze with specialized knowledge of the “system” that I daresay most of us don’t have. But while we can call a parent, friend or professional for help, many others cannot. 

It’s time to stop labeling all homeless and poor people as lazy; for most of us, poverty is only one disaster away. In the short term, we need to help qualified people access existing services. That’s what Central Union Mission does through its social work and employment programs. In the long term, people need appropriate jobs and homes they can afford. It’s all our responsibility to use our resources to that end. No one should die hungry and homeless.—David O. Treadwell, Central Union Mission executive director 

About Central Union Mission
Central Union Mission is a faith-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit with its homeless shelter located at 65 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20001, In addition to its emergency shelter program, the Mission operates rehabilitative and job training programs for men, a clothing and furniture distribution center, a retreat and recreation center with a camp for underprivileged children and a ministry to families and senior citizens.

Charity Navigator awarded Central Union Mission four out of a possible four stars, which indicates that Central Union Mission adheres to good governance and other bestpractices that minimize the chance of unethical activities and consistently executes its mission in a fiscally responsible way. Charity Navigator is America’s premier independent charity evaluator.




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