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Forum Continues Dialogue About the Complexities of Poverty

Zhiyan Zhong, WAER news

  A number of Syracuse residents and neighborhood groups Tuesday shared their visions of poverty and what to do about it.  There was plenty of concern about lack of income and the violence that it brings. 

Syracuse’s areas of concentrated poverty are well documented and acknowledged.  What’s also pretty well known is there’s no magic bullet to pull those residents, especially children, out of poverty.  Mary Nelson, president and CEO of Mary Nelson Youth Center Program, says poverty is complex and not just a stereotype.

" You have people living in Cazenovia come to my backpack program and get free backpack and school supplies. It is not just in the city of Syracuse, it is all over. Poverty is not about money it is about resources. I have been a single mother for a long time with 4 kids. I make enough money to pay the bills, pay the rent, pay the Ni-Mo, but I can't get my kids enough food."

Credit Zhiyan Zhong, WAER news
Mary Nelson, president and CEO of the Mary Nelson Youth Center, works towards curbing violence and programs to help Central New York Youths

She says food stamps are an example of a resource.  Clifford Ryan with the group OG’s Against Gun Violence is at the center of a major byproduct of poverty

"We're putting our lives on the line, but we are also making progress.  To date, we have 22 stops of gun violence. 22 individuals who were on their way to go shot someone and we were there to stop them. We have to reach out to those young men and women that are out there doing that violence before we can go onto anything else as far as poverty is concerned."

The speakers addressed Congress member John Katko who believes a path to a job could be a way out.

"When a drug dealer on a street corner has more credibility and more status because of the money in their pocket than anyone else, that is not a good thing. It is there because there is a lack of opportunity for these kids. The fact of the matter is, within the past 20 years,  we have lost 30,000 manufacturing jobs in Central New York. That is your leg up out of poverty, manufacturing and those entry level jobs."

Katko also believes education for kids in poverty has to be different than in affluent suburbs advocating changes in testing and reading to give kids more of a chance. 

Community Activist Mike Atkins says some investment right in the neighborhood could make a difference. 

Credit John Smith/WAER News
Mike Atkins

" When they talked about manufacturing, we have a Sears building (on South Salina Street). What a better place to put a manufacturing plant where people could walk to work. They never have to worry about being late because they walk right to work. That is what we have to get into."

In addition to investment, Atkins believes volunteer and faith groups have to work together with better policies to create hope  and ways out of poverty.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.