Giving Compass’ Take:
• What is the best approach to alleviate high-poverty areas? Willa Seldon and Debby Bielak suggest philanthropists should invest in those communities or a nonprofit should serve as an expertise hub.
• The author suggests that the nonprofit hub can provide knowledge on housing mobility programs and can obtain grants that would invest in these programs. Is this route the most effective for addressing high concentrated areas of poverty?
The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Pursuing the American Dream report asserts that 70 percent of children born to parents in the bottom 40 percent of incomes remain at the bottom of the economic ladder—no matter how hard they try to climb it. Many of the people who are trapped in the economy’s basement live in areas where poverty is concentrated. Discriminatory housing policies, dilapidated housing, substandard schools, limited job opportunities, and chronic crime all conspire to keep people right where they are.
When talking about the role that geography plays in keeping people at the bottom of the income ladder, it’s worth noting the stark disparities of race. Fifty percent of African Americans live in neighborhoods where poverty is concentrated—compared with 44 percent of Hispanics and 20 percent of whites.
Tackling a challenge of this scope requires patient capital. This may be the time for philanthropists, who are willing to accept the risk, to capitalize on newfound momentum, as well as promising models for change.
For decades, the social sector has debated whether the best way to reduce concentrated poverty is to transform high-poverty communities or to help people move to communities with more opportunity. Now, we know it’s not an “either/or” choice. The challenge is so complex, it makes sense to pursue both strategies simultaneously.
A starting point would be to invest in creating a national nonprofit to serve as a hub for expertise on housing-mobility programs. This entity could provide technical assistance and seed grants to regional programs, as well as create a consistent set of quality standards for housing-mobility programs. Investors could also develop regional mobility programs in as many as 20 to 25 targeted regions, providing many more families with the chance to move to higher-opportunity neighborhoods.
Read the full article about high poverty neighborhoods by Willa Seldon and Debby Bielak at The Huffington Post.
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