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  • Devra C. Aarons

Changing My Assumptions by Sam Slavet (Winner of 2024 Better Together Essay Contest)

Poverty: a state or condition in which a person or community lacks the financial

resources or essentials for a minimum standard of living. It is estimated that over thirty seven million American citizens live in poverty as of 2023 and that number continues to grow. One hundred and eighty one thousand people are unhoused in America and 27% of that comes from the state of California with an increase rate of 6% each year. Growing up I noticed this being treated as a hush-hush topic when someone, usually a child, asks about it or points out an unhoused person they see, essentially ignoring the problem as a whole by ignoring the people facing this issue. As a result of Impact Builders, my assumptions have changed dramatically over the years. Additionally, I have had many moments of realization about this widespread cause. On top of what I've already learned, I have connected my sense of identity as a Jewish person to this cause with ideas such as tikkun olam.


Assumptions play a huge role in everyone's day-to-day life. Whether it's your

implicit bias or not, everyone has assumptions. As I reflect on my experiences with

Impact Builders, between now and when I started, my assumptions and perceptions

have changed dramatically from the start. With the exposure to the population we are working with I have come to realize the resilience in this community. The strength people struggling with home security display by surviving every day is something to admire. Among many social beliefs, society believes these individuals are dangerous or should be avoided. This is not true. Rather, they are ordinary people facing harsh and inhumane circumstances and doing their best to live in a system that often works against them.


One of the most significant realizations I've had deals with the systemic barriers

that cause poverty and homelessness. While I was aware of the challenges faced by unhoused people in accessing jobs, I had not fully understood the extent and full range of issues to which something as seemingly simple as lacking a permanent address could impact their ability to secure employment, housing, and other basic services. The vicious cycle created by these lack of resources deepens individuals into poverty, making it exceedingly difficult to break free from the cycle without external support and intervention.


My Jewish identity is something I take pride in. I grew up in a very Jewish life by

going to Sunday school and learning about my heritage. By connecting my Jewish

identity to my daily life and what I do I feel a sense of purpose and motivation in my life. With the Jewish idea of tikun olam in this project, I feel strongly motivated towards this cause. Tikun olam is the idea of healing the world. Also while growing up I was always taught to give tzedakah and now with this program, I'm finally able to make a physical contribution and a change in the world by contributing to fundraising causes that benefit the unhoused population. Through Impact Builders, I have found a physical way to embody the values instilled in me through my Jewish upbringing. Together with my partners in this program, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by poverty and homelessness. Additionally, the sense of purpose and fulfillment derived from this work reaffirms my commitment to tikun olam and inspires me to continue striving for a more just and equal society.


In conclusion, my time as a member of Impact Builders has taken me under a

metamorphosis, challenging me to confront my assumptions, change my perspective, and adapt my ideals to the causes I believe in. By combining my Jewish identity with my values and ideals, I have found a sense of purpose and nourishment in working towards solving the issues we face in Impact Builders. I know this program is not where my journey ends and as I continue on this path, I am committed to bringing awareness to this widespread issue of homelessness, challenging systemic injustices, and striving towards a future where no one will have to worry about losing their home or where their next meal will come from.

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