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  • Pima County launches community effort to build 'Bridges Out of Poverty'

    Sep 08, 2014 | Read More News
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    Pima County brought elected officials and community leaders together on Monday, Sept. 8, to address the urgent need to break the cycle of poverty as a critical economic development issue.

    County Administrator Chuck HuckelberryCounty Administrator Chuck Huckelberry invited about 150 people, including Pima County supervisors, Tucson City Council members, state legislators, educators, school board members, and faith community and nonprofit leaders, to understand the impact poverty has, not just on poor individuals and families, but on the community as a whole and to work together to eradicate it.

    To those who say the best weapon against poverty is a job, Huckelberry said that as important, if not more important, is keeping that job, building on that job – empowering a person to move from being a dishwasher to an electronics technician to an electrical engineer to a manager.

    “We have to have human capital in this community to compete globally,” he said.

    Poverty – the lack of resources to deal with problems – keeps the poor trapped in crisis and unable to realize a better future, said Bonnie Bazata, who presented a new model for understanding and responding to poverty described in the book “Bridges Out of Poverty.” Bazata, who once worked in the Pima County Community Services, Employment and Training Department, now heads a Bridges Out of Poverty program in Indiana.

    Elected officials and community leadersPoverty is expensive, Bazata said. It drains community resources. It wastes human potential. And it holds back future generations.

    Thirty-eight percent of children in the United States spend a year or more in poverty but they account for 70 percent of the children who do not graduate from high school, she said. More than 35 percent of children in the city of Tucson live in poverty.

    “If we’re not addressing poverty, we cannot build sustainable communities,” she said.

    Most communities respond to poverty by focusing on alleviating suffering, Bazata said. “Are those things going to get people out of poverty? No!”

    Social services are not enough. Breaking the cycle of poverty, empowering people to get ahead instead of just get by, will require every segment of the community – schools, public safety and health-care institutions, government and especially employers, she said.

    Bonnie BazataEmployers have much to gain, Bazata said. Employee turnover costs employers. Poverty often forces employees to choose between working and responding to crises, and contributes to those employees’ inability to keep their jobs.

    Employer resource networks connect working people in or near their workplaces with the resources they need to respond to crises.

     More than 300 communities across the country are using Bridges Out of Poverty ideas, Bazata said. One employer was able to reduce employee turnover from 35 percent a year to 15 percent and save $164,500, she said. A county court system in Ohio was able to reduce bench warrents by half – and related costs – just by creating a more flexible appointment schedule for people on probation and the officers who supervise them.

    And people once locked in poverty are holding onto jobs, going to college, buying homes, participating in their communities and helping others put poverty behind them, Bazata said.

    The Pima County One-Stop Career Center has arranged for a daylong Bridges Out of Poverty workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 9, for social service professionals who work with people in poverty. On Wednesday, Sept. 10, One-Stop is bringing together manufacturing employers in the morning and health-care employers in the afternoon to learn about what employers around the country are doing to stabilize their workforces, lower their costs, attract talent and expand their customer base.

    For more information, please contact Dorothee Harmon at 520-243-6760 or by email or visit the Bridges Out of Poverty website.