Travel Log: Jefferson City, Missouri
Sister Larretta Rivera-Williams, RSM
July 13, 2016
From state capital to state capital: we spent several hours traveling from Springfield, IL to Jefferson City MO, surrounded by beautiful farmland. Water was like a background theme. A couple of strong thunderstorms accompanied the rally in Springfield, IL and our drive to Jefferson City, MO; we crossed the majestic Mississippi river and the Missouri river; we joined our tears to those of the people sharing the pain for their underserved and marginalized community.
In Jefferson City, we visited the Central Missouri Community Action Agency Family Resource Center. This Center is dedicated to eradicate the causes and conditions of poverty empowering people and families to achieve self-reliance. Sarah Nichols, a community organizer for CMCA, explained that despite the unemployment rate is 4%, the rate of poverty is 16%, since most of the jobs are part time and/or low pay, and families need second and third jobs to make ends meet.
Another issue which impacts the poverty rate is the limited public transportation, which runs only during weekdays until 5 pm. People walk and share rides, but often this is not enough if you have a night shift at work. To help people to get out of the spiral of the day pay loans, the Center recently started a loan program that pays out its clients debts and offers them financial education. We met some clients of the Center. Angela lives in public housing and is a strong advocate for her community. She is worried about children having free meals during summer and promotes dialogue with the local police in a drug-infested area. “I am in a journey to save somebody, because somebody saved me and my children,” she says.
Public transportation is a big issue in this capital city: it runs only until 5pm in weekdays, unnecessary complicating the life of people with multiple low paid jobs. (Later that night at the caucus, a man told us that he needs to take a taxi to get home when the shift of his second job ends at 11pm.)
We met also Ann. Because she didn’t have access to Medicaid, she postponed too much a doctor visit complicating a medical issue that, otherwise, would have been easy to treat: she had to choose between paying her rent or going to the doctor. “Bad legislation kills people,” she said. The staff of CMCA helped her to overcome the situation, and now Ann is a Board member of the agency. “When I help others, I help myself”, concludes Ann.
The busy day of interacting with people of different faiths, ages, and cultures in Jefferson City was topped off with an evening of Italian cuisine and vibrant conversations.
As always, Sister Simone, with her warm, humorous and inviting personality, cast a wave of serenity upon the integrated audience. The majority of the 100 plus residents who participated had never met, but their concerns and hopes were the same.
In every place, thus far, we have listened to God’s people. The main problems seen as causing gaps within cities are: lack of affordable housing, unaffordable health care, a lack of public transportation, unjust taxes, and unjust wages.
Before the tour of Nuns on the Bus ends we will have heard similar concerns from different faces, but the same goal. We must come together! Listen! Vote! Envision a new tomorrow!