Share this article

print logo

United Way and Community Foundation join Buffalo's attack on poverty

The City of Buffalo - with help from a lot of others - is promising a full-fledged attack on poverty.

The United Way of Buffalo and Erie County as well as the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo are being hired, Mayor Byron W. Brown said, to help develop a plan to attack what some view as Buffalo's most important issue and most stubborn problem:

The large number of residents living below the poverty line.

The plan will be different from anything tried in the past,  local and state officials are promising.

That's because, they said, it will be inclusive. It will be developed with cooperation from  local, county and state officials and will involve input from non-profit organizations that serve the poor as well as the poor themselves.

"No one entity can end poverty," Brown said. "The city can't by itself. The county can't by itself. The state can't by itself."

But, bringing everyone together, the mayor said, enables the type of systematic change needed for success.

The Buffalo anti-poverty program could take many forms, said United Way president Michael Weiner.

It could, for example, result in some current anti-poverty programs being de-funded, and others funded, he said.

It could mean addressing child care and transportation issues, he said.

It could lead to measures aimed at increasing wages in some lower-paying jobs, or ensuring higher-level job training is available for low-wage earners, Weiner and others said.

"We need to develop innovative ways to reduce poverty," Weiner said.

The plan, officials said,  will take some six to nine months to develop, but there's no time frame on implementation.

Friday's announcement came as an outgrowth of a Buffalo Poverty Task Force Brown formed earlier this year, after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo included $500,000 anti-poverty planning grants in his 2016-2017 state budget for each of 10 high-poverty communities, including Buffalo.

The program is modeled after an effort already underway in Rochester, which, like Buffalo, has a 33 percent poverty rate. Rochester set a goal to cut its poverty rate in half within 15 years.

The Buffalo Task Force is chaired by County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and state Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy.

The Task Force issued a request for proposals, and received responses from several organizations interested in helping to develop an anti-poverty plan, Poloncarz said.

United Way, working with the Community Foundation, was selected. About $300,000 of the $500,000 the city has received will go toward this planning effort, officials said. The remaining $200,000 is earmarked for implementation.

Weiner, speaking at a Friday news conference, said the process of developing an anti-poverty plan will include holding community forums and collecting and reviewing data.

A task force director will be hired, he said.

Also, a strategic plan will be developed to help the city compete for additional state funding that Cuomo has promised to make available to the high-poverty cities.

When announcing the United Way and Community Foundation would be involved in anti-poverty efforts, Brown talked about the need to ensure all city residents benefit from Buffalo's growing economy.

It was a theme repeated by others. Also mentioned were some of the hardships people face in their struggle to escape poverty.

Many people, Peoples-Stokes said, work hard, but are not paid enough to take them out of poverty. And while working at these low-paying jobs, she said, they are unable to train for higher-paying ones.

"It's not because people don't work," Peoples-Stokes said. "I see people coming and going to work every day.

"Part of what we need to do," she continued, "is fix the system that forces under employed not to be able to train for higher-level jobs."

"The greatest challenge we face is poverty and breaking that cycle of poverty," Kennedy said.

There are no comments - be the first to comment