Contact: Christopher Heffron
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October 10, 2003     515 Words

National Catholic Organization Tackles Poverty Issues

CINCINNATI—New Mexico may appear rich in natural beauty. But a look beneath the surface may reveal the hidden picture: 17.7 percent of the population lives below the poverty threshold of $18,100 for a family of four, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It's little wonder that New Mexico has more people living in poverty than any other state in the country. But the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is working to change that.

The plight of New Mexico's poor people, as well as CCHD's efforts to broaden the options for the poor throughout the United States, will be featured in the November issue of St. Anthony Messenger. Assistant Managing Editor Carol Ann Morrow traveled to New Mexico this past January for the article, "No More Poverty: What the Catholic Church Is Doing." In it, she examines how CCHD is working to remedy the problems plaguing New Mexico's poorest. After October 13, the article will be posted at:

For the community of La Palmeras, decent housing, safe drinking water, adequate sewage systems and passable roads remain, as they have for decades, on government agency to-do lists. Community organizer Ruben Nuñez, who lives in nearby Salem, knows the problems. "You see families living in such conditions that most people will not believe they can be living here."

La Palmeras resident Blanca González can attest. Even though she is the owner of a three-bedroom, manufactured home, González still speaks of a need for "natural gas, a drainage system, a park, a bus to pick up the children for school and a paved road."

CCHD, which is primarily funded by an annual November collection in U.S. parishes, has been working to ease the burden of poverty through grants that empower residents to work for change themselves. In Albuquerque, families can own homes with heat and running water in neighborhoods with paved streets through the Sawmill Land Trust, funded in part by CCHD. The trust uses a model that keeps these homes affordable.

CCHD has also given grants to The New Mexico Community Development Loan Fund, which dispenses small loans and teaches its clients how to succeed in their businesses. CCHD encouraged the fund's vision with at least six grants for planning and development. Among its clients are the previously mentioned Sawmill Community Land Trust, the Colonias Development Council (a community-organizing initiative) and the Southwest Creations Collaborative (SCC), which does machine sewing and handwork.

Child care is another problem CCHD is working to solve. In Columbus, New Mexico, CCHD grant monies have helped to start Columbus Child Development Center, which ensures safe, affordable child care.

The problems facing poor people of New Mexico are considerable, but CCHD is working to change that. Joan Leahigh, CCHD director for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, has nothing but praise for its empowerment of the impoverished. "The CCHD shows that the Church is interested in everyday life. It demonstrates faith in people."


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