Event invites poverty solutions

Published 9:29 pm Thursday, July 16, 2009

Local residents are invited to participate in a statewide summit on poverty being held at community colleges across Virginia Saturday.

Virginia’s Poverty Reduction Taskforce is hosting the events to gather ideas from the general public, community leaders and elected officials about how to reduce poverty and increase economic opportunity.

“Poverty is on everyone’s mind right now,” Carla Harris, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Social Services, said. “It’s certainly something that’s very timely, and there’s a synergy around the issue of poverty right now.”

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The Virginia community college system, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Community Action Partnership and the Virginia Department of Social Services are partnering to facilitate the conversations, which are free and open to the public. Advance registration is not required.

Gathering the community feedback is the next step for the Poverty Reduction Taskforce. Current data show that about 739,000 Virginians live below the federal poverty line, which is $10,210 in annual income for an individual or $20,650 for a family of four. The number represents nearly 10 percent of all Virginians, and includes more than 232,000 children. Although Virginia’s statewide poverty rate is one of the 10 lowest in the nation, certain regions in the state have rates topping 17 percent.

Saturday’s events will be the largest simultaneous, statewide conversation on poverty held in recent years.

“We’re posing the question to people, ‘If you had two minutes to speak to Governor Kaine or the mayor of Suffolk, what would you recommend to reduce poverty and why?’” Harris said. “We’re especially interested in what the community has as solutions … the focus is truly on solutions.”

Facilitators of the events statewide will collect the suggestions and give them to the Poverty Reduction Taskforce, Harris said. The group will use them to develop an action plan on reducing poverty levels in the state, and they will be forwarded to the General Assembly and the governor.

Anyone who is unable to make it to one of the below locations Saturday also can e-mail poverty@governor.virginia.gov, or mail their idea to Virginia Dept. of Social Services, c/o Public Affairs, 7 North Eight St., Richmond, VA 23219.

Nearby locations for the event are:

Paul D. Camp Community College

Franklin Campus

Regional Workforce Development Center

100 North College Drive

Franklin, VA 23851

Thomas Nelson Community College

Peninsula Workforce Development Center

Rooms 1301-1303

600 Butler Farm Rd.

Hampton, VA 23666

Tidewater Community College

Portsmouth Campus

Beazley Building

7000 College Drive

Portsmouth, VA 23703

Tidewater Community College

Virginia Beach Campus

1700 College Crescent

Advanced Technology Center

Virginia Beach, VA 23453