It is undeniable that poverty is a problem in our state. According to the 2022 Poverty Report, 13% of Missourians and over 17% of Missouri children live in poverty. That’s over 770,000 individuals struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, or meet their basic needs. Over 770,000 Missourians face physical and mental health problems caused by unstable housing, limited access to healthcare, and the general stress of living without adequate resources. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you have been following us for any amount of time, you know there are proven, evidenced-based solutions to these problems through substantive policy change. 

We can pass policy to ensure a long-term, stable stock of safe, secure, vivienda asequible across the state. We can expand safety net programs to support the nutrition needs of struggling families, and increase access to healthy foods in every community across the state. We can fundamentally reimagine our criminal justice system, including reexamining the role of police, investing in alternatives to incarceration, and removing barriers to reentry for those who have been incarcerated. And we can ensure that every person in our state has access to high-quality, affordable healthcare and high-quality education. We just need the will to implement those changes.

Most work to address poverty in Missouri has been done by nonprofits providing some type of direct service to individuals — food banks hand out meals, housing organizations arrange short-term rental or utility assistance, criminal justice organizations provide re-entry counseling and job support, and so on. Their relief work is critically important in the current paradigm, but despite their best efforts, poverty persists. Why?  

Poverty is created and sustained by public policy decisions, and substantive policy change is the only long-term solution to end poverty. Unfortunately, the people in power are highly unmotivated to pass these policies. Our political system is broken. Those with wealth have an undue amount of power and influence over both who is elected and the priorities of elected officials after taking office. Therefore, it is very easy for the Missouri legislature to ignore the voices of Missourians experiencing poverty and create or uphold systems that perpetuate poverty.

Our approach to this problem can seem complicated; we analyze current policy and its impact on the poor, research innovative policy solutions, and foster coalitions of organizations committed to ending poverty. We educate others on the advocacy process and seek to engage more Missourians in conversations with their legislators about public policies impacting their lives. Most importantly, we directly advocate to change laws that perpetuate cycles of poverty by elevating the voices of those impacted. Every part of our work is based on the core belief that decades of public policy choices created these problems, and policy changes alone can solve them. We are harnessing the power of the nonprofit sector and a network of community organizers across the state to draw attention to these issues and create a movement to solve them– for good.

We believe deeply in our model, and we know that many of you do too. But we need additional resources to be able to fully grow our coalitions to represent every corner of the state and build coalitions of working-class families so strong that they are impossible to ignore. Empower Missouri has been in a significant period of growth over the last several years, increasing our staff y Tablero, and our network of partners throughout the state and nationwide. That growth has allowed us to increase the policy changes we can pursue each year, the training opportunities we can offer nonprofits and individuals, and the opportunities to connect advocates with their legislators, but all of that also comes with an increased budget. Building a community of advocates and the power to change the policies that drive poverty is an investment – and one that we hope you will make with us. 

We are currently finalizing a new strategic plan, which we’ll share more about soon, which will continue that path and help us build more momentum towards lasting change in Missouri.

As we’ve grown, we’ve expanded opportunities to support our work – through a single donation, an Organizational Membership, monthly donations to Empower365, or attending our annual Advocacy Awards Brunch (or purchasing raffle tickets), and in our next phase of growth we will continue to offer more ways for you to support Empower, both financially and with your time and talents. We know that this can seem like a lot to ask, and that it can be overwhelming to decide how to prioritize your resources, energy, and desire to support individuals and families living in poverty. We’re asking you to invest your precious time and hard-earned money into changing the system, so that the effects can transform lives for years to come.

In this next phase we’ll also be calling on our network to help us expand our fundraising efforts and opportunities beyond our current followers. We need your ideas and expertise to help improve our events and initiatives, and your voice and influence to help spread the word. If you’re interested in taking a direct role in this work, let us know! You can contact Amber Foster-Hobart, Director of Advancement, at [email protected] for more information. Otherwise, we’ll be sharing more information in our newsletters as opportunities arise.

Your support can help us secure more key policy reforms, provide free professional development opportunities and training for anti-poverty advocates, and build spaces where advocates can gather to network, learn from each other, and set advocacy priorities. Most importantly, your support can help fight for policies that uplift families, protect the vulnerable, and create opportunities for everyone to thrive. Please join us in this essential work, however you are able.

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