'Everybody has the potential to break out of the poverty cycle, but anyone can find themselves knocked down suddenly too," according to Barbara Epstein, executive director of the social rights organization Community Advocacy, which oversees several neighborhood food co-ops aimed at bringing down the cost of basic staples for those living below or just above the poverty line.
Assessing whether an individual is able to turn his life around and become independent again is not always a fair judgment, continues Epstein. "Many times their success is dependent on government policies or other events in their lives. For some people, every time they try to stand up on their own, they have the rug pulled out from under their feet and the real question should be whether they have the courage to allow themselves to dream the dreams of success when they've been beaten down so many times."
Epstein outlines that the goal of many nonprofits should be first to provide those who are experiencing hard times with the basics to survive and then help them to "see the light at the end of the tunnel."
"Government policies continue to marginalize the weak and needy," she observes. "But there have to be some steps taken to allow these people to have hope for their own futures and that of their children. That hope builds trust and allows them to dream."
Community Advocacy's food co-op model, which is partially funded by the UJA-Federation of New York and is based on similar US programs, is a neighborhood-run store that families can join for a nominal fee and purchase food sold without any profit. Currently, there are five such stores, with a sixth one opening in Kiryat Gat soon.