A recent New York Times article explored the decline of the middle class and the related increase in “deaths of despair”—from drugs, suicide, alcohol, and reckless accidents. For many families, the article suggested, the economy has stopped delivering.

The MIT Living Wage calculator explains separately for every county in America how much money a family would need to just cover the basics – food, child care, health care, housing, transportation, and taxes.

For example, a living wage for:

  • a single parent with two children is $31.18 per hour;
  • two adults (one working) with one child is $24.24 per hour;
  • two adults (both working) with two children is $16.97 per hour.

Many of the families in Greater Saint Paul are working families – but their wages are lower than these levels. So, how can we–the faith community–respond? We know we can’t just wait for government or private industry to fix this situation. We, the interfaith community, have a role.

First, Interfaith Action faith communities help stabilize families who are in crisis, a crucial first step to moving out of poverty. We provide shelter through Project Home and healthy food and clothing through our Department of Indian Work (DIW). Our Power-Up legal clinic offers free help to resolve costly, job-impairing issues such as child custody, expungement, and access to public benefits.

Second, Interfaith Action helps families weave a web of opportunity to build their economic mobility. Our rapid exit case workers pound the pavement to help families find affordable, permanent housing. Our case workers and DIW referral desk help people identify jobs and job training to increase their income.

Opportunity Saint Paul volunteers tutor children and provide job coaching for adults. And our Community Power-Ups provide practical education so that families learn how to take good care of their legal and financial concerns, boost their ability to solve problems in their lives, and form a community of supporters.

Our faith community is here with our sleeves rolled up. We are here to create pathways of hope, to help all families in Greater Saint Paul get a real economic foothold.

Randi Ilyse Roth, executive director, Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul