(Photo: Reuters/Jim Young)
The economy and jobs have been perhaps the most talked about topics in this election cycle, and both President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney have presented detailed plans of how they will address the concerns of the wealthy and the middle class – but one charity organization has noted that the poor and the homeless seem to have been forgotten by both candidates.
"We can give people jobs, we can improve the economy, but if we don't give people the mental, emotional, and physical resources to get to those jobs, that's all in vain," Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D, Founder and CEO of Joy Junction Inc, said in a phone interview on Wednesday with The Christian Post.
Joy Junctions, a faith-based church ministry based in Albuquerque, N.M., is dedicated to helping homeless men, women, children and families by providing them food, clothing, shelter, and safety. The organization says that it serves as many as 200,000 individuals every day in various ways.
Reynalds recently released a press statement entitled "Whoever Wins, the Homeless Lose," where he outlines how neither President Obama nor candidate Romney have offered any solutions that will address the real and immediate problems of America's poor.
"The presidential debates just show us Americans that are homeless that there is no help out there for us. (President) Obama will keep us jobless; (Governor) Romney is going to cut everything for the homeless. It will be impossible for any agency to help the homeless. (There is) lying and fighting among the candidates. We do not receive a straight answer from either (one). We will lose no matter whom we elect," one unidentified homeless person shared in Reynald's press release.
Another homeless individual added, "Homelessness has been an ongoing issue. They don't make funding available for the homeless. Too many in government think we choose this lifestyle, that we can go to any social service and get help, but we don't always qualify. Some get help, but others are left out ..."
Although it is hard to determine how many people in America are homeless, a 2010 Pew Research survey found that around 15.2 percent of the American population is living in poverty. In an email to CP, Reynalds added that from a broader perspective, usually Democrats would provide more direct service to the needy in terms of welfare – but they fail to give them the tools they need to re-enter mainstream community life, which some call a "culture of welfare-dependency".
On the other hand, conservatives have also not stepped up to offer solutions and help address these important issues.
Looking at the official campaign website for President Obama and candidate Romney – there is a lot presented about the economy and plans to create more jobs and restore the middle class, but virtually nothing on how to create significant change and provide real opportunities for the poor and needy.
Reynalds is also critical of Christian churches and organizations that have chosen to focus almost exclusively on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, but have failed to step up to the forefront when it comes to charity and helping the homeless. He also criticized the mentality that allows some to believe that the poor are in general responsible for their own plight and should just rely on themselves to pull out of it.
"It seems that many Christian churches are being coerced by the religious right on issues like gun control, abortion and gay rights. But Jesus spent a lot of his time talking about those living in poverty," the Joy Junction president continued, noting that many people expect those on the streets who are begging for a meal to get up and find a job.
"But how can you do that, if you have no place to stay, you have no mail box, you have no shower – maybe you have been emotionally abused, maybe you are mentally unstable. They seem to be saying 'Well, if I have made a life for myself in America, you can too.' People look at the appearance, but they don't want to look behind the scenes – and see what led you to sitting on that street corner," he continued.
As for why Romney and Obama are ignoring the poor, he noted that the candidates do not seem to think that the homeless population would affect voter statistics.
"While there have been some efforts, by groups such as the National Coalition for the Homeless for example, to encourage homeless voter registration, there is much more that needs to be done," Reynalds said in his email to CP. "It appears to me that the candidates don't see the homeless as a powerful and important voting bloc (like evangelicals). That's tragic. It would be nice if evangelicals actively encouraged voter registration, and were more worried about the disenfranchisement of the poor and needy than constantly talking about the right to bear arms, abortions and homosexuality."
On what needs to be done to provide more help and assistance to the poor, he suggested that nonprofits working for the hopeless and the needy need more assistance. He says that nonprofit mailing rates need to remain the same, or be reduced, and the charitable tax deduction need to be as generous as possible – because any efforts to downscale or eliminate it will result in nonprofit charities reaching precariously low levels.
Reynalds insisted, however, that the answer for the poor and the homeless is not to stay away from the voting booths.
"Absolutely not. It's all we have. Let's tell the two individuals running for president that we want to hear what solutions they have for the increasing hunger and homelessness that's ailing our land. They should have comprehensive policy proposals for both issues," he said in his statement.
"However, having said that, even if we do find out what the candidates think about alleviating poverty, that doesn't let those of us who 'have,' off the hook from helping our community's most vulnerable citizens.
"All of us have a community responsibility to help (not judge) the poor, homeless and hungry in our midst, and if we think the government can take care of the situation without our active involvement, we're just fooling ourselves."
Reynolds concluded that it is also up to each individual to do all they can to help the homeless and hungry, by getting involved at their local mission, soup kitchen or food bank.