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  • Community leaders gather for poverty forum

    Oct 12, 2016 | Read More News
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    About 200 community leaders and Pima County staff attended an Oct. 7 forum looking at the effects of poverty on the region. Sponsored by Pima County’s Community Services, Employment and Training Department and its Ending Poverty Now program, the event featured a keynote address by Phil DeVol, an international consultant and co-author of Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals.

    District 2 Supervisor Ramón Valadez stressed the need for a community vision on how to tackle poverty. County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the steps the county is taking on job training, education and with several innovative grant-funded programs are necessary to create the workforce that makes the region economically attractive. 

    Poverty expert Phil DeVol encouraged attendees to work on programs that don’t just manage poverty, but will help end it. “Getting Ahead” workshops the county and its partners in the nonprofit and faith communities have led are helping those who struggle financially learn to build resources to get ahead instead of just getting by.

    Ramon Valadez at poverty meeting“The theory of Getting Ahead is to get out of the tyranny of the moment and think in a more abstract way about how to build resources,” DeVol explained. He noted that balancing the competing needs of transportation, kids, health concerns and lack of resources can be a full-time job for those living in poverty.

    “If you’re middle class and your car breaks down, you call AAA,” DeVol said. “If you live in poverty, you call Uncle Ray.” And by the time Uncle Ray fixes your car, you’ve probably missed half a day of work and lost your job, he added.

    DeVol asked employers in the room to consider joining an Employer Resource Network, which connects them with a social service provider who can assist employees whose lack of resources may be affecting their job performance.

    “We’re not asking employers to become social workers,” he said. “But if you can increase your retention rate and have more productive employees, we all benefit.”

    DeVol was in Tucson for two days of workshops. He also spoke at an “Understanding Poverty” workshop for those providing services to those in poverty; at a planning session for stakeholders in the criminal justice and re-entry field; and at a poverty reduction stakeholders meeting.

    Bonnie Bazata, who manages the county’s Ending Poverty Now program, pointed to progress the county has made on its poverty initiatives. They include:
    • Providing ongoing training for County employees and countywide partners on understanding poverty;
    • Coordinating a countywide network of organizations using the Getting Ahead workshop model;
    • Ushering in new sites for Getting Ahead, including at Las Artes Arts and Education Center and with a new project called Mothers in Arizona Moving Ahead (MAMA);
    • Exploring using Getting Ahead with the re-entry community;
    • Launching the Employer Resource Network;
    • Developing opportunities for County employees to strengthen their finances through initiatives like free tax services and workplace loans;
    • Coordinating an interdepartmental Addressing Poverty Working Group to focus on more effective ways to reduce poverty; and
    • Launching an impact study on the cost of poverty.

    To learn more about the Ending Poverty Now program, contact Bonnie Bazata at 724-3704 or bonnie.bazata@pima.gov.