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Norfolk plots tactics for poverty reduction

Jordan Crawford | 10/3/2013, 11:28 a.m.

First, in spite of programs designed to help people complete their educations, provide job training and job readiness skills and a range of other benefits, Norfolk seems to not have been able to move the needle much in the right direction on the poverty rate.

Secondly, this clearly tells that it is time to seek alternative and more effective ways to reduce poverty.

“We need to increase educational attainment for poor, working-age adults. We need to become more effective at moving poor Norfolk residents into job training and job skills programs, and from there into gainful employment,” said Fraim. “We need to find ways to overcome challenges with transportation and with child care, and to give nonviolent ex-offenders a pathway to employment and self-sufficiency.”

Mayor Fraim is optimistic, but is still thinking reasonably as he does not expect his commission to try to solve all of Norfolk’s ills. Instead, the hope is to focus on how and where they can have the biggest impact.

When the commission’s work is finished a year from now, Fraim hopes it will give a clear blueprint that, when implemented, will have a meaningful, positive and long-lasting effect on reducing poverty in Norfolk.

“What you will do as a member of the task force is important to Norfolk’s future and important to our economically disadvantaged residents who will benefit from your efforts. Thank you for accepting the challenge, and thank you for serving the city.”

According to Saphira Baker, principal of Communitas Consulting and member of the mayor’s poverty reduction commission, the current campaign is to cut the poverty rate in half in the next 10 years.

The commission plans to create good jobs by preventing lay-offs, and encouraging private sector jobs through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund.

They plan to strengthen the community and families by reducing childcare costs for low-income families, improve child tax credit, and reconnect disconnected youth. Lastly, the commission plans to enforce economic security by improving access to safety net programs, encourage asset building, create affordable housing, and provide insurance for the unemployed.

“The implementation of the objectives is pretty clear-cut,” said Baker. “Outlining our decision process, we’ve established that every proposition must have measurable results, be cost effective, leverage public and private partnerships, be implementable, and cut across agency divides and spark collaborative solutions.”

The Mayor’s Commission on Poverty Reduction was established by Norfolk’s City Council on February 26, 2013 to examine the nature of poverty in Norfolk and recommend actions that will increase educational attainment and employment, and reduce the number of citizens and families living in poverty.

The commission will conduct its work and submit a report to the Council by July 2014. Meanwhile, the commission will hold a series of town hall meetings to gather public input on Oct. 3 at Huntersville Multi-Purpose Center, Oct.17 at Southside Aquatic Center, and on Nov. 7 at Pretlow Library.