Chronic or Crisis? Learning to Tell the Difference.

This October, we will continue our 100th Anniversary celebration in Mansfield with Robert Lupton, a nationally renowned author who is best known for his book “Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, and How to Reverse It.”

For more information about our 100th Anniversary Celebration in Mansfield, please click here.

Do you know the difference between a chronic and a crisis? In the following post, Lupton breaks down the difference and shares why it is important to properly address the situation and assess the need according to the issue.

Chronic or Crisis? Learning to Tell the Difference.

by Bob Lupton

A crisis requires emergency intervention;
A chronic problem requires development.
Address a crisis need with a crisis intervention, and lives are saved.
Address a chronic need with a crisis intervention, and people are harmed.

Have you noticed that many of the same people return week after week for free food from your food pantry? Ever wonder whether your handouts were really helping or merely perpetuating a dependent lifestyle? Admitting and verbalizing these observations, at the risk of appearing heartless, is the essential first step toward truly effective service. The point isn’t to judge people who are suffering from a chronic problem; it isn’t to be cruel and deny them help because they “are stuck” and just need to “get a job.” The point is that, in offering food, you are not doing enough. It’s as ineffective as offering a Band-Aid to someone who is suffering from massive internal bleeding.

The key to effective service is accurately matching the need with the appropriate intervention.

The universal need for food is a good place to begin. Starvation is a crisis issue; hunger is a chronic issue. When famine sweeps a land, or a tsunami devastates coastal cities, starvation becomes an urgent, life-and-death situation. Emergency food supplies must be rushed in without delay. But in a stable nation with abundant supplies of food and adequate government food subsidies, occasional hunger—not starvation—is the reality facing the less advantaged. Food insecurity is a chronic, not crisis, poverty issue.

Food security is what free-food advocates talk about these days. That means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. The poor in America, roughly 15 percent of the population, are food-insecure at least sometime during the year. Even though four out of five of these households receive food from the government, there are times when their cupboards are bare.

But food-insecurity is not a crisis issue. It is a function of chronic poverty. Unlike during the great depression of the 1930’s when one in four of our workers stood in bread lines with no government safety net to rescue them, today more than 90 percent of our workforce is employed and our public subsidies are ample. Hunger is not our problem. Poor nutrition perhaps, but not hunger. Food insecurity is a chronic poverty issue and chronic problems require altogether different strategies than crisis problems.

Starvation is a crisis need; hunger is a chronic issue.

Address hunger (chronic) with a free feeding program (crisis) and unhealthy dependency occurs.

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"Address a crisis need with a crisis intervention, and lives are saved. Address a chronic need with a crisis intervention, and people are harmed." ~ Lupton

Our Mission

Catholic Charities makes real the love that God has for each individual person regardless of their faith or background by serving the poor, speaking for and assisting the neglected and forgotten, respecting and promoting life from beginning to end and nurturing and supporting individuals and families.