Unpack that Census and find a little progress on the poverty front

The City’s Office of Community Wealth Building shared the news from the last couple of years on the fight against poverty—and announced some pretty aggressive goals moving forward.

Five years ago, the Census showed that Richmond had some pretty serious poverty issues to tackle.

Yesterday, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities hosted a forum about what that might mean and what we’ve done about it so far. We’ve still got five years to go before the next Census–will things change?

At this forum, Mayor Dwight Jones, Thad Williamson from the City’s Office of Community Wealth Building, and Initiatives of Change/Hope in the Cities gave presentations on just that.

What the mayor had to say

Here’s the full text, but the basics were that, five years ago, the Mayor created the Anti-Poverty Commission (PDF).

That commission made recommendations aimed at reducing poverty, using the following committees to take a closer look.

  • Education/Workforce Development
  • Policy/Legislation
  • Unique, Healthy and Inclusive Communities: Land Use Policy
  • Transportation/Regionalism
  • Asset Building
  • Research and Evaluation (phase II)

Here’s their final report (PDF), released in January 2013. In it, you can read the names of the 50 members, which included Thad Williamson-now the head of the new Office of Community Wealth Management, which came out of this commission.

That Anti-Poverty Commission recommendations summary you’re craving!

  • Strengthen programs that address the birth/Pre-K-12 educational and developmental pipeline
  • More training for youth, disconnected youth, and vocational adults
  • Reach unemployed adults
  • Target and recruit businesses using City resources and real estate
  • Create transitional employment opportunities
  • Make it easier to conduct business or hire those in poverty
  • Extend public transportation service in the region in order to connect low-income people needing jobs to major employers
  • Enhance existing car ownership program
  • Make work pay higher and make it go farther
  • Strengthen the safety net and make it more effective
  • Remove barriers to escaping poverty and strengthen low-income households and families
  • Develop a comprehensive citywide housing plan
  • Redevelop current public housing stock using a public policy strategy that does not displace low-income residents
  • Train and employ community navigators and service coordinators as part of a supportive housing strategy
  • Strengthen financial literacy education
  • Promote use of individual development accounts (IDAs)
  • Establish a “Bank On” program and expand access to banks

What the Office of Community Wealth Building had to say

Here’s their full presentation (PDF):

What they’ve done so far

  • Begun to exist, really
  • Developed collaborative relationships with institutions and other public agencies
  • Defined strategy and set some goals
  • Expanded City’s investment in workforce development
  • Made it an institutional thing to get citizen voices heard

What’s that strategy?

  • Workforce development
  • Job creation
  • Regional transportation (think BRT)
  • Educational pipeline (think push for early childhood education centers and initiatives like RVA Reads)
  • Public housing redevelopment with no displacement (think Armstrong High redevelopment)

What are those goals?

By 2030:

  • 50% reduction of child poverty
  • 40% of overall poverty

Repeat! 50% reduction of child poverty and 40% of overall poverty by 2030!

What programs have they started

  • BLISS (Building Lives to Independence and Self-Sufficiency)
  • RVA Reads
  • Good Neighbor Initiative
  • RVA Future

Some helpful charts and graphs

From Dr. John Moeser of University of Richmond’s Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. This will help you understand exactly what problem the City is trying to address.

Here’s his full presentation, which is scannable very easily, as it is almost entirely graphs (PDF).

See you in 2020

At the next Census, we can check in and see what the progress is on getting to that sort of unbelievable number of 40% overall reduction in poverty by 2030.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes and ears open for more Unpacking the Census events from Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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