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November 6, 2017

NJTV Public Forum on Modern Day Poverty Delves into Challenges, Potential Solutions to Overcome

On November 2, 2017, NJTV hosted a public conversation about the “Faces and Challenges of Modern Day Poverty” at the Trenton YMCA. It was part of the network’s ongoing In Your Neighborhood initiative.

NJTV News Correspondent Michael Hill hosted a panel discussion about what poverty looks for the lower-middle class, factors that contribute to or perpetuate poverty, and the challenges and potential solutions to rise above it. He was joined by policy researchers, representatives from community development organizations, health experts and social services organizations: Demelza Baer, Senior Counsel and Director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice’s Economic Mobility Initiative; Frank Cirillo, Executive Director, Mercer Alliance To End Homelessness; Samuel T. Frisby Sr., CEO at the YMCA of Trenton; Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director, Anti-Poverty Network. Also contributing to the conversation: I’Asia Young and Quincy Bloxom, Garden State Leaders program  participants. Trenton’s First Lady Deniece Johnson-Jackson and Donald Moore from NJTV’s Community Advisory Board also attended.

(L-R) NJTV News’ Michael Hill moderates panel of poverty experts Demelza Baer; Renee Koubiadis; Frank Cirillo and Samuel T. Frisby Sr.

The panel shared insight on the state of poverty in New Jersey and in the state capitol with an audience of about 50, some coming from as far away as Camden and Burlington Counties. Some statistics from the discussion: The Garden State ranks 7th in the country for income inequality. 62% of Americans will be poor at some point. 36.3% of Trenton is living 200% below the poverty line. 50% of households in Trenton run on an annual income of $35K per year. Trenton’s median income is half of that of Mercer County ($72K). According to Cirillo, there are 40K people in Mercer County on public assistance: “Most of them have a work history. They didn’t choose this.” There is also racial disparities among the population. According to Baer, “A child born of color born in poverty has a less than 50% chance of rising up the income ladder. A poor white child has about a 24% chance.”

Among the solutions to the problem is to “personalize” the poverty issue, says Cirillo, remembering that those affected are people, not some “other” and that, “no one chooses poverty.”  Adds Koubiadis, “There is still the idea that people make bad decisions and that’s why they’re poor, instead of barriers that pile on.”

One attendee took to the microphone during the Q&A and shared his story of overcoming poverty and incarceration. He stressed the need to give people the “keys to the kingdom…not just a hand-out,” citing education and mentoring guidance being critical, especially for those who have been incarcerated. He now has a good job, a wife and two children. Like Cirillo, he stressed the need to not forget that the poor are people.

ICYMI, the forum is now online. You can also see the online conversation that included tweets from Chasing the Dream following the hashtag #NJTVIYN. Watch Hill’s news story about the forum on tonight’s edition of NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams.

Trenton resident I’Asia Young shares a personal story of her ongoing struggle with poverty, explain the difficulties of choosing between a job that kept her away from her family versus being a mom. She revealed she needed to borrow bus money to get to the forum that night.

NJTV’s Community Engagement Project Coordinator Selma Betancourt joins the forum’s host Michael Hill, and contributors Quincy Bloxom, I’Asia Young, Demelza Baer, Samuel T. Frisby Sr. Senior ; Renee Koubiadis, Frank Cirillo.

Post-forum, the audience convened for continuing conversation and connections.


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