"Government is not 'a system'," says Elisabeth Mason, co-founder of Single Stop, USA. "It's lots of systems. And what we care about are the people."
The East Harlem headquarters of Single Stop, the nonprofit that Mason helped establish seven years ago, invites at-risk Americans from all walks of life to pay a visit. There, representatives demystify the labyrinthine process of accessing aid -- quickly determining which public benefits and safety-net programs (from local to federal) their low-income clients may qualify for. And depending upon eligibility and needs, they may be connected to private charitable organizations, too. Through coordination of disparate programs, the organization aims to stabilize individuals and families, eventually lifting them out of poverty and into the middle class.
"We never solve anything in society by talking about how hard it is to do or that it's impossible," says Mason. "Do I think alone we can end poverty in America? Probably not. Do I think with what we are doing we could actually significantly reduce it? Yeah."
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