Catholic Charities poverty summit goes virtual for Poverty Awareness Month

January 11, 2022

The Pan de Vida Food Pantry at Guadalupe Center is just one of Catholic Charities’ many locations that serve people in need by providing the most essential human requirements. Nine out of 10 people served by Catholic Charities live in poverty: 70% have an annual income of less than $10,000. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities)

HOUSTON — Poverty has many faces. It could be a single mother whose hours were cut short during the COVID-19 pandemic. It could be a family whose primary wage earner was furloughed. It could be a neighbor who has experienced a catastrophic medical problem that wiped out their savings.

Catholic Charities will host a virtual event to help show the many faces of poverty and the trauma it can cause. The Catholic Charities kNOw Poverty Summit 2022: The Intersection of Poverty and Trauma will be held online from 9 a.m. to noon on Jan. 27.

“To solve a problem, we believe you must understand it, then share promising practices, so we can do more to solve it,” Catholic Charities’ President and CEO Cynthia N. Colbert said. “Every January, Catholic Charities invites nonprofit agencies, faith communities and others to join us at the kNOw Poverty Summit so we can work together even more effectively to help impoverished people find a path to self-sufficiency.”

During the kNOw Poverty Summit, keynote speaker Dr. Matthew Desmond, professor of sociology at Princeton University, will discuss the trauma of eviction, a fear-inducing issue plaguing many in the Archdiocese.

Desmond is the principal investigator of The Eviction Lab, a team of researchers, students and others who believe that a stable, affordable home is central to human flourishing and economic mobility.

The topic of eviction is a relevant one locally and nationally as many people have struggled to maintain employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to The Eviction Lab, Houston saw more than 55,000 eviction filings from the beginning of the pandemic through early December 2021. The Center for Disease Control’s moratorium on evictions ended in August 2021.

Many people in our community are just one unexpected expense away from having to choose between buying food, paying rent, or paying a bill.

The Kinder Institute’s 2021 Houston Area Survey found that 28% of respondents had difficulty paying for housing in the past year. Additionally, more than a third of residents indicated they would not be able to come up with $400 for an emergency expense.

In addition to Desmond’s keynote address, break-out sessions during the kNOw Poverty Summit will cover topics such as caring for clients in crisis with faith, self-care for providers, trauma-informed care and poverty’s impact on physical and mental health.

“Catholic Charities is very mindful of the challenges facing the people we serve,” said Senior Vice President of Programs Natalie Wood. “When our dedicated case managers interact with our clients, they remember that many of them have experienced trauma during their lives. We remain sensitive to these issues, treating them with respect and dignity.”

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated poverty-related issues in the United States, and more people need assistance. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national median income decreased by 2.9% from 2019 to 2020, the first significant decline in nearly a decade. The national poverty rate also increased by one percentage point to 11.4%. In Harris County, the poverty rate is 15%.

Catholic Charities has seen an increase in need locally, especially in the pandemic. Annual service numbers such as individuals served, and pounds of food distributed have tripled when compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

In 2018, Pope Francis made an appeal to pay attention to the poverty around us and see the many ways people might find themselves struggling in poverty.

“The cry of the people of God, the cry of the poor, is a kind of prayer; it opens our hearts and teaches us to be attentive,” Pope Francis said. “Let us be attentive, then, to all situations of injustice and to new forms of exploitation that risk making so many of our brothers and sisters miss the joy of the party.”

January is Poverty Awareness Month, noted by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. Interested parishioners and those engaged in parish social ministries are especially welcome to come to the summit.
For registration and more, visit †