January 7, 2008

Poverty Awareness

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

The rich get richer and the poor ……..you know the rest.  At least that’s the way it seems at times.  When we have members of our community struggling to meet their most basic needs; food, heat, or even a winter jacket, it’s hard to look around and see hope.  As the landscape of our city shifts from one of manufacturing and many of our residents are forced to regroup, re-educate, or re-position themselves, turning the corner to economic stability seems unthinkable.

The city has a poverty rate of 21%.  For many of us that may not be a shocker.  However the impact of that number will affect each of us all on an untold scale.  When we have roughly one in four Milwaukee residents living below the poverty line, be assured that the reverberations will travel throughout business, education, and employment sectors.  That number will show up in crime statistics, quality of life issues, teen pregnancy, foster care placements and reported drug use.  Poverty, although it doesn’t have to lend itself to these issues and often does not, certainly can be a precursor for some of these problems.  Bottom line, we have to do something!

We all have a stake and can play a role in erasing the poverty line.    

As individuals, we are compelled to do all that we can to improve our own situations.  Whether through education, utilization of community resources, family supports, or honest assessments about personal choices, as we work to change our circumstance we must look within.  When we look at family, child rearing, and recreational activities, are we focused on all that will improve our situations.  As I recently completed a letter of recommendation for a student to attend the Medical College of Wisconsin’s AIM Program (Apprentice In Medicine), I was enamored when speaking with her mom about all of the Summer enrichment programs that she had found for her daughter over the last couple of years.  I remembered thinking this is IT!  This was a step in the right direction.  This is how we turn the corner on poverty.

As a community, we must become the wind beneath the wings of change.  Whether in our conversations, mentoring of our youth, assistance in parenting, investment in our neighborhoods, or support of our schools to better position Milwaukee to attract organizations and businesses to spur economic growth. 

As governmental bodies, whether city, county, or state, there is an obligation to work with the business community to create a climate of opportunity and ability for growth.  Acknowledging that there is no one cure for poverty, we all have a role to play.     

Understanding that the fix may not be quick, there must be a continuous commitment to change.  There is certainly reason to hope!

In a diverse community, rich with talent, and ripe with possibility, we can certainly create a better circumstance.  With elders that have paved a foundation, or road map if you will of what can be achieved when you apply yourself, garner the assistance of others, and push for change, we can all become richer.  Knowing that “rich” can mean many things to many people, I just know that not worrying about the lights, a meal, and a winter jacket are a good start.