Blog Action Day: Teach a Man a Fish

From on October 15, 2008 in General

“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

My 15-year-old son constantly repeats this saying, almost to the point of a mantra. I hadn’t really thought about why or when he would say it until the other day. He says it whenever he sees some one standing at a street corner with a sign “Will work for food” or when one of his nieces or nephews are messing around about school work. I don’t even think he is fully conscience he is saying it anymore. It just comes out, but it comes out when someone is in a position to make a change in their lives or need one, to better themselves.

Poverty is a state that is often harder to measure than it is to define. When does a person reach the point of poverty? Sometimes it may only be one or two areas of one’s life that begin to escalate out of control for various reasons, by their attitudes or behaviors or because of their environment.

A part of the definition of poverty is that shelter is lacking. Here in my part of the world, housing has become a major issue. There are building sites everywhere that are sitting half finished because the funds to finish them have fallen out from the housing market, dropping to an all-time low. And yet, I see people in great need of somewhere to live.

There are a couple of contractors around here that have helped get first-time homeowners into low income housing with government funding and auctioning. I think that is outstanding, but again we are just giving out the fish. What if there was a way that contractors could regain some of their losses by teaching someone, on the job, to finish building that half finished house? Through their efforts to build it, they become the owners, paying for the home in the usual way – through payments. The money saved in labor costs becomes the priceless, often unavailable down payment. The job is finished, the contractor gains some of his losses, and someone has a home to live in.

I don’t know if this could work. I don’t know how feasible it would be for the builders and contractors, but I just feel awful when I see all these lots with foundations, plumbing, and even landscaping without a house on them, or the houses are finished, but have no occupancy. There is a women’s crisis center, a mission, and food bank filled with people that have no where to live. There are families that can pay some kind of rent, but can’t come up with the first and last month’s rent or security deposit to get in a place. In some areas, that adds up to a down payment on a house. Why is it not possible to let them become homeowners?

What about the builders and contractors? Couldn’t this be a boost for them? They would be working, finishing projects already started, and the publicity would be a great boost to their names and integrity. With homes filled with people making payments, wouldn’t that be good for the housing market? Just as when one aspect of the economy fails, it all starts to tumble, can’t that be true if we find a way to heal a part of it?

I know poverty is often considered an issue about money, but is it? Food, clothing, and shelter are the necessities. Many have the food and clothing they need, but they just don’t have the shelter. They live in cars and under bridges, just because the money they do get doesn’t add up to the money they need for shelter.

Take a little loss and recoup these empty foundations and houses and put people in them. Don’t give them the house, teach them to build the house, repair the house or whatever it would take for the down payment, and the rest becomes a lifetime for them.

I’m not an expert on any of this, its just seems like there must be a way that a man can have that fish for a lifetime and everyone wins. I would love some feedback on this that would be of benefit. Who knows, maybe we can start something good.