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Published: Thursday, 2/12/2009

Job creation, development top agenda at poverty forum

BY STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Michelle Niedermier, left, of Lucas County Job and Family Services, Sanaa Eid, and Rachel Davies discuss poverty at a forum conducted by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies. The group will gather information to send to Gov. Ted Strickland. Michelle Niedermier, left, of Lucas County Job and Family Services, Sanaa Eid, and Rachel Davies discuss poverty at a forum conducted by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies. The group will gather information to send to Gov. Ted Strickland.
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Creating jobs and economic development are two of the best ways to reduce poverty in Lucas County.

Those were among the suggestions made last night at the Conversation on Reducing Poverty at the Erie Street Market Civic Promenade.

Attendees also were concerned with the growing number of people looking to the government or social service programs for help, and that so many people are newly encountering poverty because of situational reasons, like job losses or health-care expenses.

The meeting, which included about 100 community members, was designed to gather ideas for an upcoming report to the governor about curbing poverty.

"There's a way that we've dealt with generational poverty, but with plant closings and downsizings, we are seeing situational poverty - something we've never seen before," said Linda Stacy, who moderated the gathering and works with organizations that assist low-income families. "Some of the strategies we've used in the past may not be appropriate now."

She added: "The folks" - the people who are new to poverty - "are less likely to know what's available because they've never had a need for it."

The meeting, which included two hours of small table discussions on the state of poverty in the region, was among 22 of its kind held across the state to make recommendations to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's Ohio Anti-Poverty Task Force.

During table discussions, community members were asked to discuss what it takes to create a community without poverty, what is happening in the community, what's already being done to address poverty, and what needs to be done to alleviate it.

Deb Ortiz-Flores, the executive director of the Lucas County Department of Job and Family Services, said the conversations were productive and will help determine the needs of the community.

"It may not be major public policy, but it is valuable," Ms. Ortiz-Flores said.

The event was hosted by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, with help from the United Way of Greater Toledo, the Erie Street Market, and the YMCA.

Organizations serving low-income residents, public officials, and low-income residents were invited to attend the event.

The chief concern - creating jobs - resonated with Bill Kitson, CEO of the United Way of Greater Toledo.

"If we can find a way to get people jobs, some of these other issues will be taken care of," Mr. Kitson said.

Contact Steve Eder at:

seder@theblade.com

or 419-304-1680.



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