Poverty is an epidemic in the United States affecting an estimated 46 million Americans. Knox County is no different than the rest of the US. Though we have a thriving community with much wealth and growth, one out of six in our county lives in poverty.

Poverty Rate in Knox County:

Knox County Poverty Stats

According to the 2011 American Community Survey

For those of us who do not fall into the poverty category we most likely have a very difficult time truly understanding what life is like for those who do. The Cost of Poverty Experience (C.O.P.E.), created by Think Tank, Inc., is an event that offers a glimpse into the lives of low-income individuals and families living in the community. It is a snapshot of the obstacles that are faced, the decisions that are made, and the consequences that impact these families every day.

C.O.P.E. represents the lives of REAL families who live in poverty who have graciously given their stories so that people across the country can be exposed to REAL people, REAL situations, and REAL barriers that exist. COPE also captures the role that the broader community plays in impacting families living in poverty and how policies and systems help or hinder their progress.

C.O.P.E. has been used to help many organizations and communities across the nation work more effectively with low-income families and understand and address the issues of poverty more comprehensively.

We are excited to now bring C.O.P.E. to the Knoxville community! In November, Mary Beth and I (Lori), along with Jessica Bocangel and Rachel Clingenpeel from Compassion Coalition, became certified C.O.P.E. trainers at a Think Tank, Inc. training in Dayton, OH. The Restoration House and Compassion Coalition agree this resource can add real value for church volunteers, non-profit community, social service workers and even government officials as they experience what it’s like to live in poverty. We can have some really good conversations during the C.O.P.E. debrief time, and quite possibly we’ll see change begin to happen in our policies and systems within our own community.

This past Saturday, we hosted our first C.O.P.E.! Volunteers, board members and other friends of The Restoration House and Compassion Coalition came together as participants in this powerful event. Be on the lookout in the coming months as we look to host many more C.O.P.E. events throughout the Knoxville area. If you are interested in hosting a C.O.P.E. event at your church or work place, or want to make sure you are on a participant list this year, email us!