The direct consequences of poverty are well-known — limited access to food, water, health care or education are a few examples. However, the consequences of poor living conditions on the community are seldom discussed; indeed, if members of a community suffer from poor living conditions, then the entire community suffers.
Effects on Community
Studies show that poor living conditions negatively affect physical and mental health. In fact, one study found that individuals in poor housing exhibit worse mental health in 100 percent of cases. Additionally, inadequate or unsanitary living conditions can contribute to the spread of disease, which adds to health care costs, prevents individuals from working and threatens the well-being of community members.
The health ramifications of poor living conditions on individuals extend to entire communities as well. Overcrowded areas are prone to suffer from infectious diseases, especially if there are unsanitary conditions. Mental health issues decrease an individual’s chance of finding employment, which can hinder a community’s productivity and economic activity.
Educational and Social Impacts
Yet another consequence of poor living conditions on the community is the degree to which they affect educational attainment. Poor living conditions inhibit a child’s ability to receive the best possible education, no matter the country or region. And a substandard education affects the entire community negatively. Well-educated populations, on the other hand, provide a myriad of advantages for a community, such as higher wages, more opportunities for innovation and greater rates of investment. Community development programs that focus on education remain among the best strategies to combat poor living conditions worldwide.
One of the less examined consequences of poor living conditions on the community is the impact on social bonds. As discussed, poverty has a detrimental impact on mental health; further, it can negatively affect families, relationships and essential social networks. The simple truth is that poor living conditions shift the attention of individuals toward their daily struggle with poverty. Instead of, for example, participating in community organizing, individuals may have multiple jobs in order to support their family. Overall, this hampers a community’s ability to form bonds and work together to improve their situation.
Bridges to Community, a nonprofit organization, works closely with community leaders in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Through creating more robust education, health, housing and economic development networks, the organization hopes to initiate and inspire organic community growth. In selected areas in both countries, Bridges to Community builds schools, provides health care and repairs damaged homes. In the past 12 months alone, the organization built or repaired 71 houses and established 70 biodigesters, which cleanly and efficiently treat wastewater.
Mentioned before, poverty has adverse effects on community organizing, but it does not entirely prevent it from occurring. For instance, more than 1,000 residents of Paraiso, San Jacinto organized to build a community center, and they are continuing their work to strengthen health care and education opportunities. The community identified 18 projects best-suited to serve their needs; after completion of the community center, they now have a communal area where they may continue their development efforts.
A powerful way to combat poor living conditions is through community development. Steps taken as a community provide lasting change and often address the root causes of poverty and poor living conditions, such as limited education opportunities and lack of quality health care. Despite the barriers that poverty presents, strong communal bonds prove to be an effective tool in raising awareness and mobilizing community action.
– Kyle Linder