When you’re poor, you’re prey.
The night Holly McAdams took her daughter and fled her home in Ohio, it cost her a house to live in.
After years of forfeiting her own pain medication to her pill-addicted husband, it cost her own health. When she reported her violent husband and neighbors to the state police, it cost her safety. Because she had been without a car for many years, her newly-acquired Chevy Malibu cost one of the highest interest rates on the market for car insurance. When she landed in Somerset, Ky., it eventually cost her marriage. And when she took out a $1,000 loan from Castle Payday, it cost $8,640 in interest payments — an interest rate of 864 percent.
“It’s a vicious cycle and you can’t get out of it,” McAdams explained.
“When you’re poor, you’re prey. You get your paycheck, you pay your bills, you buy groceries and then you have nothing left. If something goes wrong with your car, you’re stuck. So you get one of these loans and you pay to fix it, and you’re stuck,” she said. “And it’s legal, perfectly legal. If the banks are geared for the rich and their interest rates are low, and payday loans are geared for the poor and their interest rates are high, how does that make a bit of sense? It’s hypocrisy at its finest.”
In southern Kentucky, where poverty means prey, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Scarlette Jasper is hard at work with support from the CBF Offering for Global Missions. Through education, housing assistance and developing the assets of local residents, Jasper is working to repair lives broken by rural poverty — including McAdams’ life.
McAdams connected with Jasper through Bethany House, a domestic violence shelter in Somerset and one of Jasper’s many partners in the region. They met for a warm meal and an even warmer offer on a place to live. Jasper connected McAdams with an affordable apartment, even contributing to the security deposit, and assisted her daughter, Alice, to get plugged into a local school. Jasper also arranged for workers at Potentials Inc., another assistance partner, to drive McAdams to her medical appointments and help her apply for disability benefits.
McAdams says her journey through poverty has taken a lot from her, but her faith and her friends have given her the strength to stand. Alice, now 18, is attending college and McAdams is working with a credit counselor to clear the disabling interest. Though there is no easy solution for the cycle of poverty, Jasper says combatting predation means bearing witness to the transforming love of Christ in the lives of others.
“God’s call to us in light of global poverty is to help each other,” Jasper said. “The solution to persistent poverty is not a handout; it’s a hand up.”
It requires doing what Jesus did — feeding the poor, clothing those who need clothing, taking care of the sick, and helping them make sustainable changes that move them into community and opportunities to help their neighbor, she said.
“It means forming partnerships that will help engage communities in transformational development together.”
“God’s call to us in light of global poverty is to help each other. The solution to persistent poverty is not a handout; it’s a hand up.”
For Jasper, partnership means impacting more lives than she ever could alone. At her commissioning in 2014 at the CBF General Assembly, Jasper brought with her more than 20 years of collaboration around fighting rural poverty in southern Kentucky, including with Potentials Inc., a nonprofit that assists families with medical crises, and with Mountain Moms, an organization that provides support and self-care education for women fleeing domestic violence.
In addition, Jasper’s long-term partnership with the Housing Authority of Somerset yields numerous development opportunities for families living in poverty, including a bi-annual financial counseling series, workshops on predatory lending and home ownership and nutrition education for elderly and disabled housing communities.
With support from local and other partners as well as the CBF Offering for Global Missions, Jasper attends to the 10-county region surrounding her home in Somerset. McCreary County, home to many of the families and individuals with whom Jasper works, has a median household income of $20,000 and a poverty rate of 47 percent.
Rockie Chick, a resident of McCreary County, was homeless for a year before he met Jasper. Most days, he survived by catching squirrels or rabbits and sleeping in a box or wherever he could find shelter. Chick said he encountered Jasper and Potentials Inc. just as his despair had grown to thoughts of suicide. Through Potentials, he found an affordable apartment, a job as a woodworker, travel assistance to the doctor and aid drawing his social security and disability benefits. In the end, Chick said, Jasper and Potentials ensured he continue living a life he was intent on ending.
“They helped me get an apartment,” he said. “They got me a job and everything. And then I started doing woodwork, which is what I did in school.”
In one of CBF’s most dynamic partnerships, Jasper is forming together with CBF Kentucky and Together for Hope, CBF’s rural poverty initiative, to provide housing assistance to families and individuals in southern Kentucky through Extreme Build.
Extreme Build engages churches, community partners and residents in building a home for a local family in only 10 days.
Ultimately, Extreme Build not only provides homes for families living in poverty, but empowers them to purchase the home for only the cost beyond what has been donated or funded by donations. This purchase is typically made possible through low-interest loans through the USDA Rural Development.
McCreary County resident Tasha Patton purchased her own Extreme Build home.
“It has changed our family life completely,” Patton said. “God has helped me so much. Lucas is doing better in school, and Gracie is doing really good too. It’s really helped us a lot. But we also help others in this community. If somebody came to me and said they needed a hand, I would try to help them in any way that I could.”
— This story was originally appeared at cbfblog.com.