Building Bridges Out of Poverty

Our Washington State Weatherization Assistance Program staff are getting together in Phoenix the week of May 21 with their western states co-workers to learn the latest in weatherization and building science at the 2018 Energy OutWest conference. One thing you might not have expected them to talk about, though, is poverty – how it moves through generations, how it limits people’s choices and how we can better serve families in poverty.

That’s the focus of a special eight-hour immersion training Britt Pomush, Commerce Weatherization Manager, is leading for program managers around the West. Drawing on her pre-weatherization experience in community service programs, Britt will explore the causes of poverty and often-hidden obstacles that people must overcome to leave it. Most importantly, she’ll share tips on how to better communicate with people living in it.

“Poverty frames their whole experience,” Britt explains. “It affects everything from having enough energy to change their new furnace air filters to finding time to go to an office and fill out paperwork for our program.”

Is it worth it to take the time to explore the culture of poverty? Yes, says Britt. “Developing realistic expectations, taking extra time to explain and demonstrate how to maintain their new improvements – it’s all is in our self-interest. If nothing else, it protects the investment in energy improvements and keeps our field staff from burning out.”

The “Bridges Out of Poverty” curriculum Britt is teaching has been used since 1999. It was written by Dr. Ruby Payne, an educator and author who specializes in the culture of poverty and its relationship to education.

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