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Springfield Poverty on the Rise as City Leaders and Service Groups Strive to Reverse the Trend

"Wulf," a local veteran impacterd by the growing rate of poverty in Springfield.
"Wulf" is a local veteran impacted by the growing poverty rate in Springfield. The photo was taken at the city's bi-annual homeless count. Credit-Shane Franklin

The City of Springfield plans to soon make real strides in the local war on poverty, starting with a multi-pronged assault through a new city-commission and a collaborative of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks. KSMU’s Shane Franklin has more.

At the most recent City Council meeting, City Manager Greg Burris said that poverty in the Springfield community has reached a crisis level that’s going to require the help of the whole community.

“If we continue doing what we’re doing then were probably going to continue to get the same results we’re getting, so should we do something different?” asked Burris.

This is the question Burris is asking of the city’s recently formed Impacting Poverty Commission, made up of a multitude of community stakeholders. They plan to focus on the overall causes of poverty and the links between what he calls the ‘embarrassingly’ high level in our community and issues such as crime and economic development.

Burris says the commission first needs complete understanding of where the city currently stands. Only then can they develop a comprehensive strategy to emerge from its current depth of poverty. 

Trent Sims, the director of the Community Collaborate Initiative at the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, says that poverty in Springfield increased by over 21 percent from 2000-2010.

“Which to me is tremendous, especially considering that fact that we have all these wonderful agencies that are working to respond to poverty but we continue to see a tremendous growth of people living below the poverty line,” says Sims.

He says this is why the CPO was spurred to start the Impacting Poverty Collaborative, a sister program of the city’s commission. The Collaborative is working to encompass families and individuals in the services they need, and to measure success not by people served but by lives changed.

The collaborative is modelled after national best practice programs including the Memphis Fast Forward, a collective impact model.

According to Fast Forward’s most recent report, violent crime has reduced in Memphis by 22.8 percent. Additionally, more than 15,000 new jobs have been created with an average annual wage of nearly $40,000, the number of students in pre-K has expanded by 50 percent, and the city has implemented strategies saving tax payers more than $75 million.

These results were produced over a four year span using their collective impact model.

The Impacting Poverty Collaborative in Springfield is still in the research phase, and the city’s Impacting Poverty Commission plans to have their first meeting next month when Dr. Ruby Payne visits Springfield.

Payne is a long-time educator and author of the best-selling book, ‘A Framework for Understanding Poverty’. She’s made presentations in over 10 countries and every state in the US, with the mission of impacting the education and lives of individuals in poverty throughout the world.

Burris says the community should expect a report from the commission within a year after Payne’s visit to Springfield.

For KSMU News, I’m Shane Franklin.