Serious issue of poverty deserves serious effort

Serious issue of poverty deserves serious effort
November 12
00:00 2015

In above photo: Mayor Allen Joines (File Photo)

The Watergate scandal put a blot on Richard Nixon’s tenure as president, but he had some good ideas during his time in office. One of them was a way to fight poverty.

Rob Schofield of N.C. Policy Watch reported that in 1969, Nixon gave a televised address to the nation in which he proposed to establish a minimum, federally funded family income. Nixon recognized the power of money to combat poverty.

Schofield mentioned a recent article in the Washington Post titled “The remarkable thing that happens to poor kids when you give their parents a little money.” It talked about a study that showed that the lives of people, including children, improved when parents had an increase in income.

Schofield said “the implication of these findings for public policy ought to be clear: The simplest, most efficient and best thing that state and federal leaders can do to combat the scourge of poverty and its devastating long-term impact on children is to craft and enact policies that lift the incomes of the poor.”

Winston-Salem officials have decided that they want to fight poverty, but as a groupthink project. They believe a 21-panel group initially will get the ball rolling, then hundreds more people will be able to join in to help solve the issue of poverty in Winston-Salem. And the process could take five years just to cut some of the poverty in the city, which by the way, is at more than 24 percent, or a quarter of the population of 235,527 (which is an estimated population figure as of 2013). That means 58,882 people are in poverty if the 2013 figure is used.

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines on Oct. 29 led the announcement of the formation of the Winston-Salem Poverty Thought Force. The group will hold a series of community meetings to ask residents for input on how to tackle various aspects of the poverty problem. Another organization will provide data analysis and look nationwide for examples of what has worked and what has not worked.

In the end, the panel will come up with a list of recommendations and set a percentage goal to reduce the poverty rate.

Why is a panel needed, and such a large panel at that, to work on ending poverty in Winston-Salem?

A broad range of civic and academic leaders makes up the 21-member panel. It will be chaired by Wake Forest University Provost Rogan Kersh, who is the same person who in September chaired the public “hunger talks,” otherwise known as Feeding Change: an Interactive Community Conversation on Hunger.  We are still waiting on the results from that meeting.

Kersh said that the Thought Force will have five subcommittees that focus on various aspects of poverty: health and wellness; housing and homelessness; jobs/workforce development; education/life skills; and hunger/food insecurity. These subcommittees will hold meetings to gather information and ideas from the public and from people who work in these areas.

Now, look at how Winston-Salem handled the homeless veterans problem.

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Commission on Ending Homelessness announced that it has ended veteran homelessness. This was its first goal as part of its overall drive to end chronic homelessness in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County by 2016. Was a 21-member panel used to reach that goal, which took about a year to achieve?

The issue of poverty is serious and real in the city. The question is, why don’t city officials treat it that way?

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