Although the United States is one of the top 10 richest countries in the world, poverty is a critical issue in many U.S. cities.
The City of Rochester, the place we call home, is among those ranked with high poverty levels in the United States—the second-highest poverty rate of cities similar in size, to be exact. The city’s poverty rate is on the rise, and the number of children in poverty in the city has recently increased to 50 percent, an alarming statistic.
When Peter Edelman’s keynote, at the “Rochester’s Crisis of Poverty” event addressed investing in our children as an integral piece of the strategy to end poverty, it struck a chord with me.
Working in the community with many families affected by this complex issue, those of us in the human services field see firsthand the impact this vicious cycle has on our local economy and, in my particular line of work at Villa of Hope, our local youth specifically.
Despite the common misconceptions about the poor and the homeless, many people are trying their hardest to break the cycle, to create a stable life for their families and a brighter future for their children. We see many honest, hardworking citizens who are simply trying to get traction enough to get themselves ahead of the problem and back on the path to financial stability. As many of us know, the poverty cycle often repeats itself and has proven difficult to break. Investing in our youth is a critical ingredient in breaking this troublesome cycle—one that will create a positive future for the City of Rochester.
The good news, as Edelman stated, is that our local community has many strong programs in place to combat this epidemic, including the newly created Rochester Anti-Poverty Task Force, but we have much further to climb. Rochester is known for having an extremely philanthropic, resource-rich populace, yet we maintain a large gap between the rich and the poor.
We are in need of a greater concentration of resources in supportive and educational youth programs, better outcomes to prove these programs effective, and a universal community investment in making poverty a problem of the past. The youth of today are the future of our community, and if we don’t address and mitigate this pressing issue in the present, our future will look increasingly uncertain.
Vice president of community programs
Villa of Hope
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