Updated: Oct 12
The following reflection, from Freedom Church of the Poor Member Becca Forsyth, has been edited for length and clarity. To learn more about the Freedom Church of the Poor, check out this service.
Good evening, Freedom Church family! My name is Becca Forsyth and I organize with the Poor People’s Campaign in Elmira, NY. I live in a very poor community here, with a lot of poverty and homelessness. We are near the top of the state rankings with regard to medical debt, while at the same time being near the bottom of the county health rankings. With poor health outcomes, premature death rates, and high overdose rates, Chemung County ranks 59th out of 62 counties in New York State.
At the same time, I’m watching NY kick over a million of them off Medicaid because of this new “great unwinding” narrative. We’re in such a hurry to pretend that things have “gone back to normal” that we are just purposefully and intentionally hurting the poorest of the poor! Just as we saw access to health insurance start to improve…bam, there is this policy violence that feeds off the lie of scarcity and the lives of those I love!
But this weekend!!! This weekend I was able to witness what it might look like if we lived in the beloved community!
I had the opportunity to witness this in my own little hometown yesterday. As a part of the National Nonviolent Medicaid Army Week of Action, the New York Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival organized a People’s Clinic in Elmira. We spent months building new and deepening existing relationships to bring people from across NY to talk about these important topics…and to give out of our abundance! We invited local partners like The Elmira Tenants Union, the Office of the Aging, AIM Independent Living Centers, and EOP.
Other partners in movement work from across the state also joined us for the Clinic. Julie Farrar, who represents NY Caring Majority, a group working to address the homecare crisis in New York State, drove three hours to join us. Raamitha Pershad drove from Colton, NY—4 hours away—to represent the North County Poor People’s Campaign. We were also joined by leaders from the Campaign for New York Health.
Over the course of the day, we were able to share a ton of resources with our community. Thanks to our partners at the Food Bank of the Southern Tier we were able to give away over 1,500 pounds of fresh produce—some folks were even carrying out bags of food. We were also able to deliver food to members of the community who weren’t able to travel to the event. Despite giving away so much food, we had extra and have since donated it to Sister’s Keepers, a local homeless outreach ministry that will help make sure these resources get to our most impacted neighbors.
One of the highlights of the clinic was a creativity corner, where folks drew what their future might look like if we had access to healthcare as a human right. Folks lifted up messages like, “Friends who died needlessly would still be here”, “if we all had healthcare, we would all have homecare”, “I wouldn’t have to stay in this crappy job just because it has healthcare,” and “if we all had healthcare, we’d all have mental health care, which equals fewer addictions and fewer suicides, and more love in the community!”
The Clinic overall was a huge success. We built relationships and developed leaders, which were our goals at the outset. The icing on the cake was that we served almost 50 people and had some really strong organizing conversations. It was powerful and such a great reminder of what happens when we shift the narrative by shifting the narrator. We can see the glorious abundance that surrounds us and not get bogged down by this lie of scarcity. Let’s be that fellowship of believers living in the beloved community today and every day!