05/16/18 — Wayne Forward begins to tackle local poverty

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Wayne Forward begins to tackle local poverty

By Rochelle Moore
Published in News on May 16, 2018 9:39 AM

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William Munn from the North Carolina Justice Center speaks during the Wayne Forward meeting Tuesday night at Goldsboro Event Center.

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People attend the Wayne Forward meeting at Goldsboro Event Center Tuesday night. The group was later split into the four areas that people who answered the survey felt were the most important things to move up the economic ladder, including health, affordable housing, workforce development and education.

More than 75 people rolled up their sleeves and started brainstorming ideas to combat poverty in the Goldsboro community Tuesday night.

Wayne Forward, a task force committed to reducing poverty, hosted the event, which is an outgrowth of a recently released report that shows nearly 20 percent of county residents and 25 percent of Goldsboro residents experience poverty every day.

"I'm glad this work's getting started," said the Rev. Mary Reese, priest at St. Andrews Episcopal Church. "I think it's something the community really needs."

With one in four children living in poverty, Reese said poverty is a reality for many people and a problem that needs to be addressed.

"There has to be a widespread awareness that this is really a problem -- really a concern -- and this is an opportunity to spread that awareness and to get people to buy-in to doing something," she said.

"We've got dedicated people who want to be aware of what can really be done to address poverty."

William Munn, policy analyst with the N.C. Justice Center, presented the results of surveys that asked area residents what they view as barriers and solutions to people moving up the economic ladder.

Survey respondents identified education as the greatest need in moving people out of poverty, Munn said. Some of the top reasons why people struggle is the high cost of living, not having a high school diploma and having a criminal background.

"The most important finding we found was people need support," Munn said. "The overwhelming belief is that education is key in moving people out of poverty.

"The issues that sort of rose to the top were education -- overwhelmingly -- jobs, health and affordable housing."

Gerren Taylor, a local resident, asked if Wayne Forward and its efforts will bring change. He also asked if the Goldsboro City Council will back the effort.

"Offering the city council solutions to put money behind some of the poverty situations that have been in the community 50 years, what's the likelihood of that happening?" he said.

Munn said seeking support from city officials could become part of the process, eventually.

Wayne Forward has zeroed in on four areas of focus-- education, jobs, health and safety and affordable housing -- following the results of the survey that was distributed in the community and available online. More than 500 people completed the survey, with nearly 55 percent of respondents from the city of Goldsboro.

After presenting the survey results, people broke up into four groups that centered on discussion about one of the focus areas. The groups will continue to meet once a month through the summer as they work on potential solutions to address concerns about education, jobs, health and affordable housing, said Matthew Whittle, Wayne Forward co-chairman and Habitat for Humanity of Goldsboro-Wayne executive director.

"We know we're not going to solve this problem in the next several months," Whittle said. "As long as we're taking steps . . . we'll be identifying priorities."

The results of the focus groups will be compiled into a report that will be shared with the community in the fall. The report will offer solutions and actions that can be taken to start addressing the barriers to poverty.