The Buffalo News Published an outstanding editorial on poverty in Buffalo. The editorial was the lead Sunday editorial which is considered in journalistic circles as the most prestigious of placements.
The article mentions the Homeless Alliance and we are grateful for the mention. More importantly however is the fact that the News outlines the same policy recommendations that the Alliance has been making for some time now.
Buffalo slips in standings
But new rank as third-poorest city still stands as a mark of shame
Updated: 08/31/08 6:29 AM
Buffalo earned no bragging rights by dropping from the second-poorest big city in the nation to No. 3. Statistically, there’s not much difference at all. Emotionally, the truth still hurts — more than one of every four city residents is living in poverty.
The latest estimate by the U. S. Census Bureau puts Buffalo at third-poorest and still claiming one of the highest poverty rates in the nation, at 28.7 percent last year. Detroit maintained its No. 1 spot at 33.8 percent, highest among cities with more than 250,000 people, and Cleveland followed at 29.5 percent. That all three are Great Lakes cities does nothing to enhance our image, or our community psyche.
Poor is poor, and slicing the statistics thinly doesn’t much help, according to Wende A. Mix, an associate professor in the geography and planning department at Buffalo State College. “Statistically, there’s no change,” Mix said.
Bill O’Connell, executive director of the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, said he also sees no change from a practical viewpoint and, therefore, no room for political back-slapping. The numbers remain a city disgrace, and to put any kind of a positive spin on the latest ranking would be to miss the point.
Moving people from poverty to economic self-sufficiency should be a factor in community decision-making, and a measure of success in policy-setting and in projects from neighborhood improvements to job-creating attractions on the waterfront. Every strategy and every ribbon-cutting should be backed by the promise of family-wage jobs.
Small neighborhood businesses also must be a part of that mix, encouraged by the city as both a solution to the transportation woes of the impoverished and as cornerstones for neighborhood redevelopment.
With so many residents already living in poverty and many more only a missed paycheck away from disaster, help programs also need encouraging. Experts say millions of dollars are left on the table each year in federal funds for food stamps simply because people are not applying — either because of difficulty in accessing the services, embarrassment in applying or lack of knowledge of available resources.
There’s room here for everyone to help. Western New York’s key charities, the United Way and Catholic Charities, are struggling to gain enough donations to continue providing outreach services and such referral help lines as the 211 number at current levels, let alone expand to meet expanding needs. Job creation may be the goal, but social services programs — whether governmental or charity-based — can provide a needed bridge.
This community should look at poverty not just as a disgrace but as a solvable problem. It’s important to break the pattern of poverty. That can start with viewing economic development through poverty’s lens, and the statistical rankings can provide some focus. Clarity includes recognition that poverty is not always an individual problem. Housing costs, health care, transportation and municipal demolition choices all make a difference in terms of community poverty or success. And what Brookings Institution analysts term “smart policies” that foster more integration throughout metropolitan areas, while linking residents of impoverished neighborhoods to labor markets and private investment, can make a big difference.
So now we’re not No. 2, we’re No. 3. But we still have to try harder — to keep slipping down that list.
Click below to find a .pdf version of the article.
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