“If drugs are legalized then even more people in Camden won’t have jobs. How will they feed their families? Pay their bills? Poverty will get worse and there will be more crime.” (paraphrased). Whoa. That’s not the answer we expected when 2 medical students and I conversed with StreetLeaders about substance abuse in their community. But they make a valid point. I asked what is the solution and one wise young woman answered, “jobs.” A young man chimed in, “low skilled that you can start working immediately.”
And so it is with interest that I read in the paper this morning about the plant Holtec International is planning to build in Camden, which will bring 3,000 jobs to this city of 77,000. The unemployment rate in 2010 was 20% – one in 5 out of a job. It would be great if more industries were willing to give Camden a chance.
Our StreetLeader program has been able to employ 80 teens this summer – and you should see what that paycheck means to them. It goes to pay for electricity, for Dad’s prescriptions, for food. “I am going to buy my little cousin a new pair of sneakers – her old ones are too tight and have holes.” “My family went to Clementon Park last weekend – thank God I got paid because I could pay admission.”
And what happens to the teens who aren’t employed…and have too much time on their hands? They have too much time to cause trouble on social media, to hang out with the wrong crowd, to make poor choices. And then feel really bad about themselves.
Jobs. Camden needs jobs.