The Impacting Poverty Commission (IPC) has issued its one-year report, and the news is positive.
The commission issued a challenge to the community in October 2015 to help decrease the poverty trend in Greene County. A lot has been done since then, including the launch of Zone Blitz, which is helping to address poverty in Springfield’s northwest neighborhoods. Springfield City Manager Greg Burris says, more than 225 organizations have connected in some way with Zone Blitz activities or taken their own steps to help lift up those in need.
The latest IPC report shows that Greene County’s poverty rate has decreased—from 20.6 percent in 2014 to 17.7 percent in 2015. Those numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, which indicate the first drop in the percentage of Greene County residents living in poverty since 2009.
Debi Meeds, president and CEO of the United Way of the Ozarks and co-chair of the IPC steering committee, said “we know a lot of factors go into the poverty rate going down,” but she’s excited to see that trend.
"And we know that, now that we're working in an even more coordinated way, that we will see that trend line go down," she said.
Meeds said the commission’s biggest achievement has been getting all of the different sectors—from businesses to nonprofits to social service agencies—together to address poverty in the community. According to Meeds, the IPC, and the Prosper Springfield that came out of it, have shed light on efforts to fight poverty in the city.
"We're really getting a handle on how many amazing things are happening, and we're beginning now to really say, 'you know, we have a lot of people doing something, but we have gaps in this other area,' and seeing if we can actually shift some of the work that's being done to address that area," she said.
Meeds is working with Janet Dankert, executive director of the Community Partnership of the Ozarks and chair of the IPC Steering Committee, on the Prosper Springfield collective impact model initiative that creates a system for addressing poverty that best addresses its cause.
The model, according to Meeds, includes measures for monitoring the level of poverty (the goal is to reduce the poverty rate in Greene County five percent by 2030). She said, if those measures improve, they’ll know that poverty is improving as well. The model also includes identifying ways to move people forward and how to measure that. People from various sectors in the community are involved in the initiative.
The Community Partnership of the Ozarks will provide the administration for the initiative and will hire a Prosper Springfield director “to keep an eye on all the pieces,” Meeds said.