By Jim Davis

“Poverty” is an interesting word. Most people talk about it in terms of economics. For example, Merriam-Webster defines it as “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.”(1)  In the US, we try to quantify poverty by establishing a “poverty line” that represents the minimum income that a family needs in order to maintain an acceptable standard of living. The amount varies by the size of the family, so a family of four that earns less than $27,750 is considered to be living in poverty.(2) Based on that measure, we would say that 29.6% of the population of Dayton is living in poverty today.(3)

Income is a popular measure of poverty, because it provides a baseline that’s easy to compare against. But income alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Economic poverty can lead to other forms of poverty that are more difficult to measure. It’s also possible for a person to be well-off financially and still be impoverished in other ways.

Compassion International suggests that there are six types of poverty(4) . We’ve already talked about economic poverty. The other five are:

  • Social poverty, which occurs when large groups of people are treated with less respect, are accorded less rights, and are more limited in their opportunities to succeed than other members of the larger population. We most often think of this kind of poverty with regards to people who are victims of discrimination, like black Americans prior to the 1970s. But the homeless and the poor are also largely ignored by society and treated as “lesser” humans, so this class of poverty can apply to them as well.
  • Educational poverty happens when people don’t have the ability to receive the level of education required for them to succeed in the workforce. This could happen because they can’t afford a proper education, opt not to pursue an education for some reason, or because such an education isn’t available to them because of where they live.
  • Health poverty describes the situation where people lack access to the resources needed to maintain a proper level of health or have a condition that causes them to be less healthy than other members of the population. Health poverty can be the result of economic poverty (when people lack the money to buy healthy food or needed medication). It can also cause economic poverty in cases where a person’s health prohibits them from holding a job, or
    where the cost of medical treatments becomes so expensive that it drains their savings.
  • Spiritual Poverty often occurs as a result of other forms of poverty, where a person loses hope as a result of other challenges in their life. It can also be caused by a lack of confidence or self-esteem or simply due to a lack of human relationships.
  • Environmental Poverty takes into account all of the resources – food, water, education, healthcare, infrastructure – available in a person’s environment. The fact is that people who live in richer countries like the US have more opportunity than those living in developing countries.

Understanding these types of poverty is crucial to the work we do here at the Life Enrichment Center.

Our goal is to help our clients transform their lives for the better. Those clients are all impoverished in some way. Our task is to recognize the way (or ways) in which that poverty occurs and help our clients find ways to fill those gaps. To do that, we’ve structured our Pathways to Growth program to match up with these categories of poverty:

  • Clients suffering economic and environmental poverty would begin their journey with the Basic Needs pathway, where they can receive benefits like hot breakfasts, warm showers, and visits to the clothing and choices pantry.
  • Clients with health issues will benefit from the health screenings and other services available on the Health and Safety pathway.
  • The Relationship Needs pathway addresses many of the issues of social poverty by introducing clients to organizations that can help them find a sense of community.
  • Clients who are spiritually impoverished can find help from both the Esteem Needs and Spiritual and God’s Purpose Needs pathways. The Spiritual and God’s Purpose pathway can also help clients who are dealing with Educational Poverty. Esteem Needs services teach clients that they are capable of succeeding with complex tasks, while the God’s Purpose services provide training and educational services to help clients succeed in the workplace.

Here at the LEC, we believe that every client has value. Our desire is to help them find that value and leverage it to transform their lives for the better. Helping them to mitigate the effects of poverty is an important part of that process.

“Because Everyone Has Value”

Jim Davis has been a volunteer with the Life Enrichment Center since 2019. His grandparents lived in East Dayton and he has many fond memories of what the area was like when he was growing up.


1“Poverty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2022.
2 “HHS Poverty Guidelines for 2022,” Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation,, Referenced May 30, 2022
3 “Dayton Ohio (OH) Poverty Rate Data.’ Dayton, Ohio (OH) poverty rate data -information about poor and low-income residents living in this city ( , Accessed June 2,2022
4 “The Types and Characteristics of Poverty,”Compassion International, Types of Poverty – Compassion International, Accessed June 2, 2022.