“Single Mom, Unemployed, Anything Helps”

This is the first post in a three-part series about the power of business to transform the lives of the poor. Read the second and third posts here. This series is related to our past event, Creating Good Jobs for Our Community.

One of my neighbors spends her days at the corner of 6th Avenue and York Street holding a sign that reads, “Single mom, unemployed, anything helps.” She’s a frequent presence at this intersection — so frequent, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing her red hair as I speed by on my way to work.

Although I’ve seen my neighbor for the better part of two years, I still don’t know how to respond to her request for help. On a good day, I bring her a bottle of water and granola bar, but other days I angle my car so I can drive through the intersection without making eye contact.

Regardless of my response, I often wonder, “Why doesn’t she just get a job?” Maybe you’ve asked a similar question as you’ve seen people “flying signs” on Denver street corners. It’s tempting to allow people on the margins — the poor, under-educated, newly sober, formerly incarcerated, or recent refugees — to blend into the ever-changing urban tableau, but I sense God using my neighbor’s presence at 6th and York to introduce deeper questions regarding my own presence in the city.

A Closer Look

As I’ve looked at this issue, I’ve learned that chronic unemployment can rarely be attributed to a single source. It springs from complex, overlapping factors that keep people from achieving personal, social, and economic fulfillment. While unemployment may result from poor decision-making, such as substance abuse or criminal behavior, others factors are not of an individual’s own making, such as abusive family relationships, mental illness, failing schools, or government bureaucracy.

Simply put, people facing barriers to employment are often chronically disconnected from the resources and relationships they need to thrive. Over the next four weeks, we’ll consider ways to rebuild these connections through work. We’ll examine:

  • How work unlocks people’s God-given potential and helps them thrive

  • How job creation can be part of God’s broader redemptive plan

  • Practical examples of local businesses creating jobs for the chronically unemployed