Civic Engagement

Civic Engagement Program

In a vibrant city like Charlotte, it’s easy to overlook the fact that many are suffering amid affluence. Our Civic Engagement Program increases awareness of the complex issues facing more than 100,000 neighbors living in poverty.

Even families whose income is twice the Federal Poverty Level struggle to afford safe housing, reliable transportation, child care, utilities, food, and other necessities. An unexpected event such as an illness or job loss can send an accomplished person into a downward financial spiral.

More than 100,000 of our neighbors live in poverty. 

Empowering Advocates

The Civic Engagement Program engages and empowers the community to be advocates for people facing poverty by:

  • Increasing awareness of the complex issues that make it challenging for some neighbors to make ends meet
  • Encouraging community dialogue and participation in removing barriers to financial security
  • Changing attitudes and policies that create barriers to economic mobility

The most powerful advocates are customers themselves. We provide training to highly motivated individuals interested in sharing their story and effecting positive change for others living in poverty.

Poverty Simulations

Since 2008, Crisis Assistance Ministry has been the local lead facilitator of Poverty Simulations, a facilitated two-hour immersive experience designed to create awareness among participants of life at the bottom rung of the economic ladder. The simulation presents participants with real-life scenarios and challenges faced by people living in poverty and is immediately followed by a group debrief, during which participants reflect on the experience, discuss insights, and consider next steps.

Poverty: The Newest “Dirty” Word

Poverty isn’t a permanent place that someone lives in; in fact, most people flow in and out of living in poverty throughout their lives. Living paycheck to paycheck is relatively normal today. Therefore, missing a paycheck due to sickness or another issue could cause a surge in the direction of poverty and hinder the ability to pay rent on time or buy groceries for your family.

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Energy: The Overlooked Aspect of Affordable Housing

As the debate about how to fix Charlotte’s affordable housing shortage rages on, it’s important to remember that skyrocketing rents are not the only factor. “Affordable housing” means a household spends no more than 30% of its income on rent and utilities. It’s that second part – the cost of utilities – that often gets left out of the conversation.

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“Don’t Feel Sorry for Me”

A recent discussion and training session brought together college-aged interns with community advocates who have experienced life on the bottom rung of the economic ladder in Charlotte. The wide-ranging conversation allowed participants to put themselves in the shoes of the people they will serve and to think a bit differently about the lives of people in poverty.

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Serving a Traumatized Community

Trauma-informed care is increasingly recognized as a preferred approach in medical and behavioral health settings. Crisis Assistance Ministry staffer Rochelle McCrimmon shares its application in the daily work of serving neighbors in financial crisis.

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How Struggling on the Economic Margins Affects Mental Health

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly one in five adults in the United States experiences a mental health condition each year. For families living below the federal poverty line, mental illness is even more prevalent and pernicious.

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Let’s Talk About Living Wages in the Queen City

There’s been a flurry of minimum-wage-raising activity in Charlotte recently, which is certainly good news for the low-wage workers whose paychecks are increasing. But, is $15 an hour really a living wage?

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Welcome Our Newest Graduates

On May 4, Crisis Assistance Ministry joyfully celebrated the graduations of a new class of Customer Advocates. New graduate Kimberly reflected on her journey from customer to empowered advocate saying: “I have found my voice and will utilize it to the best of my ability to help families like mine understand that there is hope, that life happens to everyone, and that we must not give up but continue to move forward.”

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Special Funding Released to Help Families Behind on Rent and Utility Bills

For a limited time, special funding is available for Mecklenburg County households needing assistance paying their rent and utility bills. While county residents can always seek emergency financial assistance at Crisis Assistance Ministry, now through June 30, additional funds are available to assist families in need.

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Transforming a Skeptic

I’m skeptical when I hear people talk about life-altering, perspective-shifting experiences. So, when I came home to tell my roommate that I had just experienced one of the most powerful and transformative two hours of my life, I recognized the incredulous face looking back at me.

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Reflections on Legacy of Lynching and Racial Justice in America

As a new exhibit opens at the Levine Museum of the New South, entitled Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America, participants from the recent trip to Montgomery, Alabama, reflect on what they learned about the past, present, and future of racial justice in America, including right here in Mecklenburg County.

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As important as financial stability is, research shows that where we live may be just as critical to overall health. Last month, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute released the “2019 County Health Rankings Key Findings Report”, which examines how location and health intersect.

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VITA Celebrates 50 Years of Tax Preparation Assistance

For half a century, the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program has offered free tax preparation assistance to elderly, disabled, and low- and moderate-income households.

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