Commission hears poverty analysis

Photo by Ricki Barker

Photo by Ricki Barker

ALBANY, Ga. -- City leaders got a sobering portrait of poverty here Tuesday as an analysis commissioned by the city manager's office was presented to the board.

The report identified the major causes of poverty in Albany, but, more importantly, according to City Manager Alfred Lott, it offered recommendations and possible solutions to address the problem.

"It was conveyed during their retreat this year that poverty was going to be a priority for the (Albany City) Commission," Lott said. "The mission or goal of the report was to identify contributing factors to poverty as well as possible policy action the board could take."

Based largely on U.S. census data, information from other government sources, as well as information obtained through interviews and public hearings, the analysis identifies the area's 27 percent poverty rate and offers recommendations to decrease that number.

Some of the recommendations offered were that the city develop funding priorities for nonprofit agencies that address poverty, continue implementation of the Altogether Albany Master Plan for city development, and increase the city's partnership with the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce program Strive2Thrive.

The analysis also recommends collaboration between government agencies -- local, state and federal -- to coordinate and monitor services received by the poor; continue building public and private funding sources to redevelop neighborhoods in poverty-stricken areas, and incorporate poverty reduction into the city's long-term strategic plan.

Veronica Adams-Cooper, whose consulting firm VAAC was paid $35,000 by the city for the analysis, told the Commission that a common sentiment among the 537 people who chose to be a part of the community hearing and online components of the study, was that there was a mindset of dependency among the recipients of government assistance.

"The structure of the welfare system fosters dependency," Adams-Cooper said. "That was one of the common comments that we had during our meetings: this mindset of dependency."

Lott said he believes the study accomplished its goal and exceeded his expectations and will give the Commission a road map on where to start any poverty eradication efforts.

"In a way, this report supports the action the Commission took just last week to put $10,000 toward the Strive2Thrive program," Lott said. "Poverty affects general economics, crime and housing, and we need to decide where to focus. Education, promoting family literacy and economic development are all steps we're taking."