Lynchburg City Council revises message for Poverty to Progress initiative

City officials say there's confusion surrounding initiative

LYNCHBURG, Va. – There's confusion surrounding Lynchburg’s Poverty to Progress initiative. At the beginning of the year, city leaders vowed to work on moving 50 households out of poverty over the next five years.

About a quarter of Lynchburg citizens are living in poverty.

"Of that percentage, 30 percent of those reflect children who are living in poverty with their families,” said Mayor Joan Foster. 

In March, the city endorsed a concept to move 50 households out of poverty over the next five years and hoped the intiative would help decrease the number of people living in poverty. The mayor told WSLS at the time they needed a metric system.

"Well over, the course of a year, we've found that that number is very confusing. There are many organizations already working with individuals living and households living in poverty,” Foster said.

The city's assistant manager, John Hughes, brought the confusion to the council's attention. He said people were taking the concept too literally. They began calling to sign up for the initiative. 

"People were somewhat confused about the dialogue and discussion surrounding 50 families and 50 households. And that seems to be taking away from the community-based thrust (of the) initiative,” Hughes said. 

The City Council has decided to do away with the concept and shift its focus. City officials say they've set aside $50,000 for the Poverty to Progress initiative, and $25,000 of that will be used to help the nine committees that are on the ground finding ways to fight poverty in the city. 

“Our sub-group is two major initiatives. One of those initiatives is to look at one of the major, look at one those organizations, faith-based, that are providing after-school, tutoring, mentoring programs across the city,” Roger Jones, the chairman of the education subcommittee, said. 

Some members of the education subcommittee want to use the tutoring partnership with The Dearington and the Boys & Girls Club as a model to implement in other schools. 

"You learn and you replicate. I'm excited the Dearington project is a really critical aspect of what we do,” Jones said. 

The mayor said the city will continue with its current efforts and wait for the new census to come out to see how the number of people living in poverty has changed. 

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