When you think of vulnerability, poverty probably comes to mind. However, we often limit our understanding of poverty by only seeing the physical needs. In reality, poverty encompasses the unmet needs of the whole person.
While the lack of basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing are the most obvious and create desperation, there’s also a lack of access to certain things that most of us take for granted. Lack of access to proper education, medical care, and employment opportunities create huge disadvantages, but even this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Whether they live on the street, in slums, or low-income housing, there are often stigmas attached to these individuals as well. This creates a lack of acceptance, which can also result in a lack of healthy relationships. These individuals are usually pushed to the fringes of society, with little to no support from their peers. They’re often not accepted into certain situations or places and are isolated from opportunity in so many ways. Their place in society often robs them of their dignity so when someone mistreats or exploits them, they’re not surprised. They tend to be easily manipulated because of their desperation. For example, they might be willing to send their children off with strangers in hopes of a better life for not only the child, but for the rest of the family that’s left behind. Combine these realities with the physical lack and you have a very vulnerable person.
The downfall of most of the aid that’s given to those living in poverty is the lack of understanding that the psychological and emotional needs are just as important as the physical ones (if not more). People need their dignity restored, wounds healed, and hope revived - without these things, there’s poverty of the spirit.
You can see in a quick assessment around the world that the great majority of those who are living in orphanages and that are victims of human trafficking come from impoverished, marginalized people groups. We must address poverty in a holistic way. It doesn’t only present us with physical needs to be met, but psychological, emotional, relational, and spiritual ones as well. Living in poverty often creates a poverty mindset that’s rooted in hopelessness. We must step in, meet the needs of the whole person, and help them overcome the obstacles they face - whether it’s a lack of provision or believing they’re worthless. Loving our neighbors holistically, no matter their economic status or messy situations, is the only way to address their inner and outer vulnerabilities.