About 3 years ago, CitySquare, an organization that’s been fighting the causes and effects of poverty since 1988 (and for which I am proud to work), designed a shirt with the phrase “Poverty Sucks.” We knew that statement could be off-putting to some, but on behalf of the neighbors we serve, we needed to make a bold statement about the state of poverty in Dallas. The statistics are alarming- 23% of people in Dallas live below the poverty line, 1 in 3 African Americans and Hispanics in Dallas live in poverty, and Dallas residents are more likely to be impoverished than in any of America’s 20 biggest cities except for Memphis, Philadelphia, and Detriot. We’ve known for a long time that we must DO something.
Mayor Rawlings is answering the call to action for the City of Dallas. He announced the formation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty in February and appointed Larry James, President and CEO of CitySquare, to lead the task force. The task force has a cabinet that consists of business, community, academic, and civic leaders who are all involved and concerned about poverty in Dallas. Mayor Rawlings challenged the task force with finding short- term, substantive actions that the city can take to tackle poverty. The task force decided to have a large ideation event to gather over 200 people to help the task force with their recommendations for Mayor Rawlings.
The ideation event was held on May 29th at Paul Quinn College in southern Dallas with about 230 attendees. Mayor’s Star Council was invited to have a role in the event where many of us volunteered and participated in small group discussions. The energy and excitement about solving this daunting problem was palpable as small groups discussed everything from racial equity to education to transportation as they relate to poverty. By the end of the morning, each small group (there were about 22 groups of 8-15 people) presented solutions to the audience that the task force will consider in their 5-6 recommendations they will present to Mayor Rawlings.
We left the ideation event feeling like we could not only conquer poverty in Dallas, but across the nation! But the harsh reality is that poverty sucks and will until Dallas comes up with a long term, comprehensive solution to the problem. One thing I have learned from my friendships with our homeless neighbors, is that even in poverty, there is hope. This task force initiative, like any other new initiative, has its dissenters, but we must start somewhere. Getting over 200 people from different industries, perspectives, religious beliefs, backgrounds, and parts of the city to southern Dallas to propose solutions is not a shabby start. I am hopeful that we are moving in the right direction.
Jarie Bradley | MSC 2013-2014