Now more than ever, we need authentic compassion

Now more than ever, we need authentic compassion

Now more than ever, we need authentic compassion

By Katherine Greene

“Our human compassion binds us to one another—not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” 

Nelson Mandela

We have a unique opportunity as human beings to show compassion to our neighbors. With recent events—from the coronavirus pandemic to instances of racial injustice—I have been on an emotional rollercoaster ride wondering where to find examples of authentic compassion.


Before the outbreak of COVID-19 and racial injustice movement, I was reminded of spring 2018 when I questioned the authenticity of compassion. My husband and I purchased a condo in a historic up-and-coming area of Atlanta called the West End. We thought it would be a great place to live, do life with others in the community, and enjoy the amenities close to downtown.


Unlike living in the suburbs, we were often overwhelmed by panhandlers and witnessed many homeless people finding shelter under the nearby bridge. That made us uncomfortable at times. It was disheartening and frustrating at the same time to see individuals having to live this way. I wondered how I could show more compassion to the people in these positions. 


Then, in early 2019, Super Bowl 53 was the highlight for Atlanta. What an exciting time for the city! The planning and preparation to have the city ready to receive an influx of tourists were high and intense. Beautification projects were taking place near and around the areas close to the Mercedes Benz Stadium—from repaired sidewalks, potholes, and streets to freshly painted street signs and buildings. Places that were once full of litter were suddenly cleaned up and areas that were once full of dirt and rocks were now covered with colorful flowers and pine straw. Even roadway projects were seemingly being advanced to make way for the high volumes of traffic and people for the big game.  


Street corners were cleared of panhandlers and nearby bridges in downtown Atlanta no longer housed the homeless. This seemed so drastic and I wondered how our city was caring for the homeless. Were any of the people under that bridge connected to resources that could eventually lead them to more permanent living situations. Did they even get the emotional, mental, and spiritual help needed to deal with their circumstances?


A couple of weeks after Super Bowl 53, I noticed how things started to slowly revert back to a familiar scene—an abundance of panhandlers standing on the street corner and litter spread throughout the streets. The most disheartening part of it all was this: people began to find shelter back under bridges. 


In my view, these were temporary solutions based on currency and not compassion. Now, I understand that when issues and problems arise, we need to lead with authentic compassion to bring about long-term solutions.


Organizations like Partners for HOME have the goal “to make homeliness rare, brief and nonrecurring.” This nonprofit is part of the Atlanta Continuum of Care, a collaboration of over 100 organizations working together to end homelessness. This collaboration produced the 2019 PIT Count Report (Point-in-time-Count) which collected data that had been, and will continue to be, helpful in assessing the needs of the homeless population in Atlanta. In the data collected it showed that Atlanta had seen a downward trend in homelessness in the areas of unsheltered, but a slight increase in the sheltered.


Although some of the numbers may have been trending downward, amid the coronavirus pandemic and instances of racial injustice, homelessness and poverty have started to rise like we’ve never seen before. Communities and leaders will have to step up their compassion for many neighbors especially for the underserved population.


A great example for us is like the compassionate act demonstrated by the gospel artist Lacrea, who responded during this coronavirus pandemic with Love Beyond Wall that installed portable handwashing stations around the Atlanta metro area for homeless and displaced people to clean their hands.


Poverty is the underlying cause of homelessness. It is complex and requires many solutions. That is why our work at Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) matters. Through the tireless efforts of our Hiring Well, Doing Good (HWDG) and Healthy Families Initiative (HFI) programs we work with the state legislature, community partners, and education and business leaders to provide real solutions to help the lives of individuals and families flourish in Georgia.


Perhaps if we can lead with compassion, we can understand that the people who find themselves on the street come from varying backgrounds—some have lost their jobs, affordable housing is scarce, maybe they suffer from addiction or mental illness. But human dignity is for everyone.


As my husband and I continue to make the West End area a great place to live and enjoy, we are excited about the work that many organizations like Partners for Home, Love Beyond the Wall, and GCO are doing by providing solutions to the underserved so that all people flourish and our communities thrive!  


We needed it during Super Bowl 53 and we need it now during Covid-19 and racial injustice.


We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an intact, healthy family and strong relationships. 

Visit our Healthy Families Initiative

Boundaries Define Us

Boundaries Define Us



Boundaries Define Us 


By Joyce Mayberry




“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.”

Dr. Henry Cloud

Merriam Webster defines boundary in this way:

  • Something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.
  • A line that marks the limits of an area, a dividing line.


When we talk about boundaries, we talk about restrictions and not necessarily freedom. There are several types of boundaries: mental, physical, and emotional. What type of boundaries do you have in your life? I think of obeying the law. Most recently, I think of COVID-19 and I think of social distancing. I just got married, so another boundary is being faithful to my spouse.


Let’s look at what’s going on today. The first thing that comes to my mind is the tragic death of George Floyd. In this case I would think that the four officers lost sight of their emotional and personal boundaries. What about the boundaries of COVID-19? Do you feel that the coronavirus is creating stress? You may need to create mental boundaries that help to give you freedom from listening to all the news. 


Are there areas in your life where things are in disarray? If there are, then you most likely do not have boundaries in that area. At the Georgia Center for Opportunity, in the impact area of Family Formation, we see regularly where people refuse to set clear boundaries. It’s important as we work to strengthen families and to see individuals flourish that we all seek to acknowledge when this does not happen. The Healthy Families Initiative has relationship education classes to help you to begin to experience that freedom that Dr. Henry Cloud talks about. Until you sign up for a class, here are some quick strategies that will help you to begin setting healthy boundaries:


  1. Know your value. Be clear about knowing who you are and where you stand.
  2. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Have your words speak for you!
  3. Trust yourself and have the courage to say no.


As Dr. Henry Cloud says, setting boundaries is key to knowing where you end and someone else begins, and it allows you take ownership. Individually, we each can begin to take responsibility for what happens in our state, community, and families.


Hiring Well, Doing Good is ramping up in Columbus!

Hiring Well, Doing Good is ramping up in Columbus!

Hiring Well, Doing Good is ramping up in Columbus!

We recently received the alarming news that 40% of low-income households across the U.S. reported a job loss in March due to shutdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic. Closer to home here in Georgia, Columbus faces a rising unemployment rate (12.2% as of April) that is sure to spike to between 14% and 20% when April numbers are released. 

In the middle of this economic disaster, Georgia Center for Opportunity’s Hiring Well, Doing Good (HWDG) program is expanding rapidly in Columbus. We are now open to forming partnerships with businesses and nonprofits in the region!


What HWDG does

HWDG brings together community resources and technology to help un- and under-employed individuals achieve economic independence in three ways:

  • Offering support: Individuals can easily search for local service providers who can help them overcome barriers to employment.
  • Helping people find their strengths: Job seekers can identify their strengths and opportunities for employment through a soft skills assessment, a library of training programs, and a career pathway generator.
  • Linking people directly with job opportunities: Job seekers can then connect with jobs relevant to their skill sets and personal preferences and geographic area.

Help for people like Marshayla

HWDG helps people like Marshayla Walker, who grew up in poverty in the greater Columbus region and struggled for years as an unemployed single mom. Marshayla heard about HWDG and attended training offered by Troy University, where she is currently majoring in psychology with a minor in global business. She said she is grateful for the support, encouragement, and resources HWDG offers and feels that she is now equipped to break into the competitive HR field upon graduation—with a new-found confidence that she can work her way up the career ladder and give her son opportunities she did not have growing up.

All Georgians Deserve to Participate in The Economic Recovery

All Georgians Deserve to Participate in The Economic Recovery

All Georgians Deserve to Participate in The Economic Recovery

By Buzz Brockway

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused massive numbers of people to lose their jobs. Georgia’s official unemployment rate is 9.7%. However, as we reported last week , many others are not employed but do not appear in the common reported unemployment number. 


A top goal of policy makers, and indeed all Georgians, should be to see people return to work as quickly as possible. Work is the best path to financial independence and a flourishing life.  


As we endeavor to rebuild our economy, we must look to remove barriers people face in returning to work. One significant barrier many people face is a criminal record. For those with a criminal record who lost jobs due to the pandemic shutdown, finding work again could be difficult. For ex-offenders who didn’t have a job, the task of finding one just became even more difficult. Our research estimates that approximately 250,000 healthy working age men had no job prior to the pandemic. The reasons for their lack of employment vary, but for many, a criminal record is the barrier keeping them out of the job market.  


What can be done to address this significant problem? In recent years, Georgia has focused on prison reentry programs meant to assist folks as they transition back into society. This work is important and must continue. But for those already back in society, other assistance is needed.


With Senate Bill 288, the Georgia Legislature has the chance to aid ex-offenders looking for work. The bill would allow an ex-offender, who has served his or her time and stayed out of trouble for a period of time, the opportunity to have certain non-violent misdemeanors expunged from the record. This will allow for an easier transition back into the workforce for a segment of Georgia’s population, who have paid their debt to society and stayed on the straight and narrow.


The benefit to our state in passing this legislation comes in several ways: Ex-offenders with jobs are less likely to recidivate. People who don’t get in trouble again cost the taxpayers less money and actually join the ranks of taxpaying citizens.


Ex-offenders with jobs are able to support their families, reducing poverty and lifting up the communities in which they live. If we want to break the cycle of poverty in our state, we must provide a path out for families. A job is the first step on the path to self-sufficiency and a flourishing life. 


We are in the final week of the 2020 Georgia legislative session. There are many important issues being debated and policies being discussed to make our state better. At the top of the list should be providing a path forward for folks who need our help. SB 288 is an excellent step in the right direction.

To learn more about what Georgia Center for Opportunity is doing to help get Georgians back to work check out our Hiring Well, Doing Good initiative. 

What’s Georgia’s Real Unemployment Number?

What’s Georgia’s Real Unemployment Number?

What’s Georgia’s Real Unemployment Number?

By Erik Randolph

Don’t be fooled by Georgia’s unemployment rate. While many are breathing a sigh of relief that barely one in ten Georgian’s are out of work, the reality is much worse.

Georgia’s unemployment rate (U-3) dropped to 9.7% last month—according to official numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released today.  

This number is adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, if that still makes sense given the current conditions. Otherwise, Georgia’s rate would be 9.5%, relatively close due to the time of the year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly makes adjustments to smooth out the data from the impact of seasonal employment, such as temporary employment during the Christmas season, teenagers working as summer camp counselors, or landscaping jobs dependent on the growing season. The smoothing out of data is intended to help economists detect trends more easily. 

The sense of relief comes from more dismal expectations that the unemployment rate itself could have been much worse—especially considering the unprecedented havoc on the economy from COVID-19—and from the encouraging news that Georgia is among the 38 states where the rates are coming down. 

 Georgia’s unemployment rate is among the lowest of the states. The nation’s rate was 13.3% (adjusted). Three states—Nevada, Michigan, and Hawaii—had seasonally adjusted rates of 25.3%, 22.6%, and 21.2%, respectively. 

However, one in ten workers unemployed is still very high. There were 475,338 unemployed Georgians last month (seasonally adjusted). That number was 161,147 in February. The state went from a historic low unemployment rate of 3.1% (adjusted) to a record high of 12.6% (adjusted) in just two months. 



The Loose Link

The situation is actually worse than what the unemployment numbers show. First, there is a loose relationship between employment and the labor force. The Bureau counts only those who are employed or actively looking for work as part of the labor force. 

When the economy does well and jobs are more plentiful, the labor force grows in size because more people decide to enter or reenter the labor force. However, when the economy grows sluggish and jobs become harder to find, the opposite happens: the labor force shrinks.

The labor force participation rate demonstrates this well-known phenomenon. The chart below illustrates this relationship in Georgia. By definition, the labor force participation rate shows the percentage of workers in the labor force to the potential population of those who could be in the labor force, defined as all individuals age 16 and older who are not institutionalized, such as in prison, and—as the Bureau of Labor Statistics defines it—not in the military. 

Of course, there are other factors at work. The aging population is pushing down the participation rate. An issue of great concern is the increasing proportion of individuals in their prime working age who have dropped out of the labor force altogether. This has been a topic of study from across the political spectrum, and recessions seem to only aggravate the trend. 

The size of the recent labor force loss is astounding. A record number of 262,577 Georgians dropped out of the labor force in April. This is the seasonally adjusted number. The unadjusted number is 286,733. 

The labor force bounced back just 0.1% in May, but still the net effect is that 256,208 individuals dropped out since February. 

What this all means is that 570,399 Georgians either lost employment or dropped out of the labor force since February. If you add back in the 161,147 who were unemployed in February, there are at least 731,546 workers either unemployed or who dropped out, and 751,116 workers if we use unadjusted numbers. 



However, we are still missing one part of the analysis. Prior to February, the labor force was growing and grew at a rate of 1.6% from the prior year (unadjusted). This implies that the labor force number should have grown over the last three months, perhaps to 5,208,019 in May (adjusted). This would make the combined unemployment/labor force problem closer to 15.0% (adjusted), or 14.8% (unadjusted).

It Gets Even Worse

The official unemployment rate does not capture everyone, including those who are working part-time but want to work full-time. For this, we must turn to the alternative measurement of labor underutilization known as U-6, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ broadest metric. The national number jumped from 7.4% in February to 22.4% in April, and back down to 20.7% in May. 

Unfortunately, the Bureau does not publish U-6 on a monthly basis for the states. For statistical reliability reasons, they only provide annual rolling averages each quarter year. 

Most recently, Georgia’s annual rolling average U-6, ending the first quarter of 2020, was 6.7% compared to the national rolling average of 7.2%. This implies that Georgia’s U-6 is probably around 19.3%. Combining this number with those who dropped out of the labor force yields an impact well above 20%, probably around 25%, or one-in-four Georgians adversely affected, instead of just one in ten.


Note on Sources: All data came from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, except for the identification of the recessions that came from the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research.  

Erik Randolph is Director of Research at the Georgia Center for Opportunity. This article reflects his calculations, analysis and opinion and does not necessarily reflect that of the Georgia Center for Opportunity.

To learn more about what Georgia Center for Opportunity is doing to help get Georgians back to work check out our Hiring Well, Doing Good initiative.