Poverty Among Urban Youth

As an organization that continues to make every effort to resource urban leaders in their communities, we are acutely aware of the pain of poverty evidenced in kids’ lives and their families. We hear the cries from ministry leaders who do their best to seek training to sustain themselves and their programs amidst the social ills that negatively impact youth in their communities.

  • In November 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau said more than 16% of the population lived in poverty in the United States, including almost 20% of American children.
  • In 2011, 1.2% of the U.S. population lived in extreme poverty, meaning households were living on less than $2 per day before government benefits. (National Poverty Center, 2012)

Recently when I was in a challenging neighborhood in Oakland, CA, I walked up to three teenagers who were smoking a joint on the church steps! They told me they were “gettin’ their medicine cause there was nothing else to do! We even light up during school cause all we do is get breaks.” Toward the end of the conversation, I asked them “If I gave you a microphone to speak to the church, what would you tell them?” Their collective responses was, “The church needs to do a better job at using their common sense. They spend too much time building parks and programs, but they’re not changing anything in the hood! We need them to tell us why being in there (pointing to the church building) is better than being out here (pointing to the streets). They just need to work smarter

Poverty, in its lack of support, finances is really the mindset that these teenagers are wrestling with as I listened to them share. Not only are kids dealing with poverty in their homes, but also the lack of funding within their schools make it difficult to obtain a higher education to break the cycle. Providing practical training in social skills, daily structural concepts, empowerment, and how to connect to the greater community of resources is the needed shift to transition the welfare of their families. This is why UYWI has designed our 90 Degrees Certification model  whereby we can train, mentor and coach leaders over 12 months on how to better reach and disciple kids in their at-risk zip codes.  

If the church can do a better job at adopting local neighborhoods, providing tangible opportunities, sharing practical tools for change, and instilling biblical knowledge, then our greater society might have a chance at the fruits of the Gospel. We are grateful for your continued support in helping us resource youth leaders to learn how to tackle the roots of difficulty within the students they serve.

Thank you for your kindness!

Fred Oduyoye

National Training Director, UYWI


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