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Thumbs up, Thumbs down, July 24

Bridges Out of Poverty

Be honest: Have you ever seen someone in front of you at the supermarket and questioned what they were buying and why they were getting assistance to buy it? Have you ever known someone who you think is making questionable life choices and said or thought, “they just need to get a job and contribute?”

Many of us have. But criticizing what we see as problems of poverty and actually helping people in poverty are two very different things. Many of the solutions to poverty begin with acceptance and understanding of the people who live without on a daily basis.

Looking down on poor people for the choices they make never leads to those people emerging from poverty; in fact, negative attitudes toward people in poverty often help perpetuate the systemic problems that keep them living moment-to-moment 24/7.

In Boyle County, the Heart of Kentucky United Way has been doing excellent work educating people about poverty by offering “Bridges Out of Poverty” training sessions. Anyone can attend the sessions, which are eye-opening, half-day events that will give you more “a-ha!” moments than you know what to do with.

As a Bridges Out of Poverty flyer for the next training explains, “People in poverty are often in survival mode, and support systems taken for granted in middle class and wealth are largely nonexistent. If your business, agency or organization works with people from poverty, a deeper understanding of their challenges — and strengths — helps you partner with them to create opportunities for success.”

In some cases, individuals can take the lessons from Bridges Out of Poverty and apply them directly to how they interact with people or conduct business. The trainings also have a broader impact by spreading knowledge to more and more people about what causes poverty, how hard it is to escape and what solutions might work. With a critical mass of informed community members, it becomes possible to take more large-scale actions that can break harmful cycles and enable people in poverty to rise into the middle class.

If you haven’t taken the training yet, your next opportunity is Wednesday, Aug. 1, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Inter-County Energy community room, 1009 Hustonville Road, Danville. There is no cost for the training, but participants are required to purchase a copy of the Bridges Out of Poverty book by Ruby K. Payne, Philip E. DeVol and Terie Derussi Smith. The United Way has the books available at a discounted rate of $18.

If you have already taken the Bridges Out of Poverty training, as many local leaders and elected officials have, you know how valuable the experience is. Let friends and others who you think would benefit from the training know about this upcoming opportunity and encourage them to take it.

There will be more trainings offered in the future, too. To register for the Aug. 1 training, for more information or to find out about future training dates, contact Amy Longwill at alongwill@hkuw.org or (859) 238-6986.

No cell service on the Fork

These days, many of us have come to rely on our cell phones, for better and worse. One of the good things cell phones provide is information during severe weather and natural disasters. Cell phones provide access to warnings to seek shelter; information on weather from a thousand different websites and apps; and communication channels for people in trouble and those seeking to help.

But while most people in Boyle County can benefit from these services, many in the southwestern portion of the county — and in neighboring Casey and Marion counties — cannot. That’s because there aren’t cell towers in the area to provide reliable service. We saw this problem in action last month, when heavy flooding hit the area unexpectedly. As Joe Sullivan with the National Weather Service explained last week, radar can only provide information about what’s happening in the sky, not on the ground. The NWS relies on reports from people on the ground to know what the actual fallout from a storm is. But along the North Rolling Fork Creek, there’s no cell service, so it’s very difficult for such reports to be made. It also means people in the area can’t get alerted when the weather turns dangerous, either.

The cell phone industry is a for-profit business, designed around getting enough consumers of cell phones and data plans to outweigh the cost of making the cell phones and providing cell towers. The for-profit math for places like Forkland and Parksville is not good. The cost to build cell towers is too steep compared to the number of customers a cell company might gain. Public safety isn’t a factor in that math.

Leaving cell coverage up to money-focused commercial enterprises has created an unfair system that means people living in rural areas live more at-risk than people in developed areas.

This is a situation where “we the people” should step in to fill the gap. Perhaps there are federal dollars available to help subsidize the construction of cell towers in the knobs. Perhaps a public-private partnership is the solution.

Hopefully, our local leaders are looking into the options — and pushing leaders at the state and federal levels to find answers, too.