Poverty was chosen as a top priority for the first time at the ISAAC Issues Convention on October 26, 2017. Poverty has been a major focus of our task forces on Housing, Transit, Early Childhood & Education, and Youth Violence Prevention ever since the first ISAAC task forces were formed in 2003, but our new Anti-Poverty Task Force is an historic change of approach for ISAAC.
Issues Convention Poverty Presentation: “Some statistics in our own newspaper shook me out of complacency about poverty,” said Rick Welch, member of First Congregational Church. “The national poverty rate is 12.6%. In Michigan it’s 15.5%. In Kalamazoo County it’s 18.3%. In Kalamazoo City it’s 30.9%. In inner city zones, it’s 48.3%. Sadly, this puts us 3rd from the bottom, with only Flint and Detroit having worse numbers.” Venessa Collins-Smith, City of Kalamazoo Compliance Specialist, gave depth of feeling to those numbers with her poem “I am Poverty,” and Dr. Pat Stromsta played the piano and sang a song reminding us of our faith values which call us to remember those in poverty and put our faith into action.
So far, Task Force one-on-one guest speakers have included: Kym Hollars, Navigator Coordinator with Goodwill Industries; Kevin Ford, Shared Prosperity Coordinator with the City of Kalamazoo; Dr. Tim Ready, Executive Director at the WMU Lewis Walker Institute and Luke Kujacznski, Executive Director of Urban Alliance’s Momentum program. The Task Force has also watched the documentary, “The Line” which shares stories of four American individuals who live below or at the poverty line. There is much to be done and we are ready for the work ahead!