"Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" is an expression used to the point of cliche in American political discourse, especially when referencing the allocation of funding to social service programs. But, as writer John Swansburg pointed out in a piece called "The Self-Made Man":
To "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" is to succeed by dint of your own efforts. But that’s a modern corruption of the phrase’s original meaning. It used to describe a quixotic attempt to achieve an impossibility, not a feat of self-reliance. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps, anymore than you can by your shoelaces. (Try it.) The phrase’s first known usage comes from a sarcastic 1834 account of a crackpot inventor’s attempt to build a perpetual motion machine.
Misplaced though it may be, the phrase and its underlying concept persist – and, as a result, hinder progress in providing equitable living conditions for all. The stories in this collection spotlight a handful of responses that rightfully complicate that narrative and provide a path toward a more level playing field. As evident by the reporting in this collection, that path is characterized by two assets in particular:
- Expanding Access: Health care is not easy to obtain in the U.S., and for those experiencing homelessness, it's even more challenging. Law @ the Margins reported on a model of care that expands access to low-income communities and unhoused community members by combining medical and social services. In another example of measuring the success of an initiative by how it has expanded access to care, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigated how the discontinuation of a practice that forced ambulances to go elsewhere if a hospital was too busy forced hospitals to develop strategies to improve patient flow.
- Eliminating Barriers: For those facing food insecurity, it can be time-consuming and difficult to locate resources, so LA Progressive approached the issue by reporting on initiatives – like urban farming and integrated service chains – that help to reduce these obstacles. In another example of investigating how barriers can be eliminated, The Salt Lake Tribune reported on how a pilot program that teaches teenagers coping skills is used to address the lack of existing mental health resources available in the community.
- How is ME Time helping students in Utah?
- Why are benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) a more efficient/effective solution than food banks or soup kitchens?
- One of SJN's Success Factors is attacking root causes: treating the underlying conditions of social problems rather than the surface level effects, specifically when problems have structural and systemic roots. after reading Jennifer Alexander's article, describe some of the root causes of homelessness in Tennessee and/or the United States.
- John Diedrich and Kevin Crowe's article on ambulance diversion illustrates a classic roadblock in the path to finding solutions: a belief that the current system is the only viable option, even if it's unpopular and not particularly effective. Identify a part of life in an organization you belong to that operates under a similar "this is the way it's always been done" paradigm and brainstorm possible alternative solutions.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
- Mood Enhancement Time has been shown to teach teens coping skills for stress and reduce the onset of depression. One student reported that the six-hour counseling program taught her that "I might not be able to change my feelings, but I can change what I’ll do about them."
- SNAP provides 10 meals for every one provided by a food bank. SNAP benefits allow individuals to budget, plan, and prepare for the unique needs of their family or household without having to find and travel to a food bank within a narrow, specific window of time - a window that might be inaccessible due to childcare needs and work or transit schedules.
- Answers will vary; personal injury or illness that accrues debt and renders someone unable to hold a job are a likely contender.
- Answers will vary.
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