30″ x 36″ oil on canvas
During my recent 2 weeks in Seattle, an unintentional theme of poverty presented itself in my agenda of meetings with community activists and nonprofit staff. Talking to people both personally effected by poverty and those involved in administrative roles opened my naive eyes to the nature of the issue and deepened my sensitivity. Just finishing Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family was also a rude awakening to a culture foreign to a middle class kid like myself.
I held a preconceived perception of poverty that assumed there was something “wrong” with a person who couldn’t afford housing, food, and other essentials; that something needed to be fixed about that individual. True, there are many factors, such as substance abuse, that may contribute to an individual’s inability to support themself, although in many cases, poverty means that a full-time job and frugal living does not equal the cost of living. Hindering circumstance outside of one’s own control, taking on a multitude of forms, can snowball into devastating financial results demanding more than a lifetime to surmount (ie death of a spouse, illness, or even a car accident resulting in a sudden loss of transportation).
Of course, I have several pieces in the works inspired by my interactions with the folks in Seattle, but the broader issue of poverty is a great tie-in to a nonprofit in New York that has been collecting dust in my backlog of organizations waiting to be featured here. The long awaited completion of this painting of NYC presented the perfect opportunity to bring Robin Hood to center stage.
Robin Hood, much like United Way, boasts a record of impressive efficiency with dwarfed administrative cost. Both organizations fund other nonprofits rather than offering services directly to individuals themselves, inherently cutting administrative costs, but additionally,
“Robin Hood’s Board of Directors underwrites all of [their] fundraising and administrative expenses. From the rent to staff salaries to the website…it’s all paid for so your money goes to help others. [They] believe the urgent need in New York’s poor communities requires [them] to put every dollar out on the streets helping people and not in an endowment.”
What all of this means for New York residents is that more services and aid are made available to them to overcome poverty, whether that condition be the result of a self-destructive lifestyle, or the more common inability to afford the cost of living in spite of very sincere effort to make ends meet.
Much of what I read on their website reads like a landing page for a venture capital firm: “follows an extensive due diligence process to ensure that every dollar invested generates results,” and “before investing in a program…reviews its strategy, scrutinizes its financial statements, evaluates its management teams, and conducts multiple visits.” The business speak certainly is indicative of backgrounds of the successful board of directors spearheading the organization. Such an approach has proved to be highly effective, as indicated in their quarterly updates and success stories. Thank goodness since, reportedly from their website, 1 in 6 New Yorkers live in poverty.