The Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative has released its first progress report, which outlines key barriers facing people in Rochester living in poverty, and recommendations for breaking the cycle of poverty, officials from the initiative stated.
Nearly 1,000 people participated in the effort, including an estimated 200 volunteers, divided into committees and work groups, and over 800 community members, who provided feedback and ideas regarding the initiative’s anti-poverty efforts.
According to the report, the group’s main goal, over the next 15 years, is to reduce poverty in the region by 50 percent.
However, the group, which is led by State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, and Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, and convened by the United Way, pointed out, “It is important to note that this is a progress report, not a panacea to the poverty epidemic.”
As a result, the group said it has provided a framework with the report, by which the initiative will begin to identify its best next steps going forward.
“This report is a great start,” Mayor Lovely Warren stated. “But it is only a start. Rochester’s poverty problem developed over a long period of time, and it is not going to go away overnight. If we are truly to address this problem, it is going to take the ongoing commitment of the many stakeholders who have already contributed to this process and more.”
According to the report, from May through July, work groups, which included people who are currently living in poverty or who have emerged from poverty, identified barriers in focus areas including housing, jobs and workforce development, safe neighborhoods, education, transportation, childcare, justice and health and nutrition.
The groups then developed recommendations to address each of the barriers, and have come up with the following three, common themes which the report said were consistent throughout each area:
- Community Building: A common theme expressed by people impacted by poverty is the desire to continue residing in their current neighborhoods. The condition, however, is that these neighborhoods meet their needs. These needs include quality affordable housing, access to nutritious foods, neighborhood safety, youth development, crisis-service alternatives to arrest, community health campuses, local business development and job opportunities, transportation infrastructure, and neighborhood community centers that connect individuals to appropriate education, training, and other support services.
- Structural Racism: Structural racism can be defined as a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It points to dimensions of our history, and culture, that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness,” and disadvantages associated with “color,” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead, it has been a feature of the social, economic, and political systems in which we all exist. Poverty disproportionately affects blacks/African Americans, and Hispanics, in the city of Rochester. The issue is the ongoing effect of structural racism and bias, which continue as a major barrier for blacks/African Americans, and Hispanics, as they attempt to break free of poverty.
- Poverty-Induced Trauma: Multiple studies of both children and adults living in poverty suggest the ongoing and continuous nature of stress, arising from threats to well-being, negatively affect cognitive function/executive functioning skills; in some cases this can result in barriers to performance, developmental progress, and goal attainment. First, poverty creates powerful stresses that swamp our thinking, and creates a ‘bandwidth tax,’ that decreases the quality of the decisions we make. And second, the stresses associated with poverty can alter the way the brain develops in children who are subjected to them. For African Americans and Latinos who are living in poverty, structural racism and poverty-induced trauma compound one another, and the impact is exponential.
In addition, out of the 33 recommendations drafted by work groups earlier this year, the report said the following three have risen to the top:
- Systems Design: Designing a comprehensive, integrated system of social supports, including an overhaul of the region’s social services systems in coordination with IBM, through the company’s Smarter Cities Challenge planning effort.
- Adult Mentoring/ Navigating: Establishing an adult mentor/navigator role across the systems of support that helps working poor individuals to overcome barriers and acquire the resources, knowledge, and skills necessary to attain and retain a living wage job, and break the cycle of poverty.
- Early Childhood Support: Ensuring early childhood support that provides both high-quality, affordable, accessible, and flexible childcare parents need in order to engage in community, economic mobility, wellness-related activities, and in-home parent training proven to give new parents the skills to succeed as their children’s first teachers.
During the next phase of its work, officials the said the initiative will review current community assets, and research solutions to implement the top recommendations, as well as create work plans for each area to measure its progress, and identify necessary policy changes. In addition, an IBM smarter cities team will arrive in Rochester in October to begin work on an integrated system of social supports, the report stated. The city won a grant from the company for its assistance in conjunction with the initiative.
The initiative has received $500,000 in state funds to cover administrative costs for the project, as well as an additional $6 million funds from the state in June, at the of end the state’s legislative session.
Visit endingpovertynow.org to view the full report, or for additional information regarding the initiative.