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Editorial: New collaboration takes a holistic view of poverty in Buffalo

Combating poverty requires a multipronged approach. In Buffalo, ranked as one of the nation’s poorest cities, changing that ranking is an especially important task.
As recently reported, the United Way of Buffalo and the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo are being “hired,” according to Mayor Byron W. Brown, to attack the lingering, obstinate problem.

As Brown described it, this is a different effort and yet another partnership with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo who is providing resources through the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative to work on poverty in a “holistic and comprehensive way,” as the mayor said.

Cuomo included $500,000 anti-poverty grants in his 2016-2017 state budget for each of 10 high-poverty communities, including Buffalo. The program is modeled after an effort in Rochester which, as Buffalo, has a 33 percent poverty rate.

Brown formed a Buffalo Poverty Task Force earlier this year and now that effort is transforming into an even greater one. There is a collective recognition that no one entity can address poverty by itself. All must work together and involve people who are living in poverty to devise effective ways to allocate resources and, as the mayor said, “implement strategies and programs that will have the most profound impact to help lift people out of poverty.”

Officials want to create a big-tent strategy in which stakeholders who have an impact will be at the table. One of the key ingredients that have become the “secret sauce” in Buffalo is collaboration, as the mayor continued. And this attack on poverty will be one of those collaborative efforts, as Brown signaled from the beginning.

The legislation enabled the mayor to unilaterally select the convening organization of this effort. Brown immediately reached out and set up a co-chair relationship with County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, to enable everyone to work together. Jointly, they issued a request for proposal so community organizations could present their qualifications and collectively decided to hire the United Way and Community Foundation to convene this effort.

Officials have said the plan will take six to nine months to develop but there is no time frame on implementation – which should offer this effort the best chance to work.

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