“Many Americans live on the outskirts of hope – some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.”
With these words in his January 8, 1964 State of the Union address, President Lyndon Baines Johnson launched what he called the War on Poverty, stating:
“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort. It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”
This historic call to action led to the Economic Opportunity Act, the Food Stamp Act and the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, it led to the creation of an array of federally funded programs targeting various aspects of poverty, including Community Action Programs, Head Start, Medicare and Medicaid, Community Health Centers, Pell Grants, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Job Corps, Legal Services and the Federal Work-Study Program.
Solid Ground and our forebears – the Fremont Public Association and the North Seattle Community Service Center – were formed out of the Community Action movement. We are one of 30 Community Action Agencies (CAA) in Washington state and more than 1,100 across our country, serving people living on low incomes in every state as well as Puerto Rico and the Trust Territories.
May 2016 has been declared Community Action Month in Washington state by Governor Jay Inslee. His proclamation reads:
Whereas, Community Action Agencies in Washington state help low-income community members to help themselves and become more self-sufficient; and
Whereas, Community Action Agencies in partnership with elected officials, the private sector, and low-income citizens, continue to identify challenges facing those with fixed and low incomes and seek ways to strengthen the community; and
Whereas, strong, healthy, communities are crucial to quality of life and well-being for all; and
Whereas, for more than fifty years, Community Action Agencies have provided vital human services that have produced tremendous outcomes in empowering families and individuals – Helping People, Changing Lives;
Now, therefore, I, Jay Inslee, Governor of the state of Washington, do hereby proclaim May 2016 as Community Action Month in Washington, and I urge all people in our state to join me in this special observance.
Solid Ground and our Washington State Community Action Partnership have helped hundreds of thousands of people living on low-incomes change their lives for the better. Once, we focused on passing out food and clothes and finding people day jobs. As the causes and attributes of poverty have become more complex, so have our services. Now we address the multiple intersections of homelessness, domestic violence, mental health, mobility, education achievement, financial literacy and asset building, access to affordable health care, food and nutrition, and institutional racism.
Through more than 40 years of service, we are grateful for the support of organizations, business and individuals throughout our community. So, this celebration is about our agencies, yes. But even more so it is a celebration of the passionate, caring communities that continue to value and support this work.