More than 180 participants, who are struggling to make ends, chose to spend their Saturday discussing the needs of their community and how to improve the City of Newburgh, both for them and their families. The Community Listening Session, “Speak to Change,” sponsored by the Newburgh Anti-Poverty Task Force and United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region, was held at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center.
“I had no idea that in discussing my homelessness, I would be able to find laughter,” noted one participant. She said that she hesitated to leave her table for even a moment as the discussion was so helpful.
The program opened with an introduction by United Way’s President & CEO Jeannie Montano, followed by brief statements by Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy, Harry Porr III representing County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus and United Way’s Board Chair Barry Rothfeld. Rae Leiner, Anti-Poverty Initiative Director for United Way, provided an overview of the day and then the discussions commenced.
“With our mission to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of all our community members, United Way is very aware of the need of many Newburgh residents,” said Jeannie Montano, President and CEO of United Way. “The Community Listening Session was the key component of Phase One of the Anti-Poverty Initiative to help all of us hear and identify the city’s highest needs and neighborhoods. We all learned so much on Saturday and I want to extend my thanks to all the residents who attended as well as the volunteers who served as conversation facilitators, note takers, translators as well as those who provided childcare and transportation. We all are working closely with Mayor Judy Kennedy and City of Newburgh officials as well as County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus and representatives of Orange County Government to help ensure that what these concerns will be addressed.”
The participants were seated around round tables and during each one of four sessions they discussed one of the primary concerns felt to be the most prominent barriers to success and issues of concern in the Newburgh community: jobs and transportation, housing, education, and health & wellness. In addition, there were two rooms set aside for Spanish speakers who were able to hold their own discussions in their primary language. There was a brief wrap-up following the four discussions, led by Rae Leiner, Director of Anti-Poverty Initiative for United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region.
In addition, participants were able to find help they might need now through a variety of nonprofit agencies that presented information at tables during and after the main program. Transportation, childcare, and lunch were provided to everyone in attendance during the session that lasted 11am to 5pm on January 21st.
The Newburgh Anti-Poverty Initiative will use the information from this listening session to begin to identify and highlight what will be addressed in Stage Two of the New York State $1,000,000 Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI). Newburgh is one of sixteen communities statewide that was selected to participate in this initiative, with the stated goal to: “work together to develop and execute an innovative plan to reduce the number/percentage of households residing in poverty and increase the number/percentage with earned income above poverty.”
“Our goal for the Community Listening Session was to discuss solutions and ideas on jobs, housing, transportation, education, and health and wellness programs,” noted Rae Leiner, director of the Anti-Poverty Initiative for United Way. “Thanks to the participants who shared their own stories, concerns, and insights about the city with one another and us, United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region, selected to coordinate and organize this initiative by Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy, together with Anti-Poverty Task Force partners, will begin to move to Phase 2 of this initiative. We all are determined to help improve the lives of the participants and others who are fighting every day to overcome living in poverty in the City of Newburgh.”
The recent United Way ALICE Report for New York State examined households throughout the state (using 2014 data) and showed 68% of Newburgh households struggling day-to-day, with 34% living in poverty and 34% as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). This is a much higher concentration of those struggling than households throughout the rest of Orange County (a total of 41% struggling with 12% living in poverty and 29% as ALICE). For more information on the ALICE Report, see www.uwdor.org/NYS-ALICE.
There are a total of sixteen Anti-Poverty Task Forces in New York State – Albany, the Bronx, Binghamton, Buffalo, Elmira, Hempstead, Jamestown, Niagara Falls, Oneonta, Oswego, Rochester, Syracuse, Troy, Utica, Waterton, and the Newburgh task force. These areas were determined to have the high concentration of poverty within their municipality. With the help of local government officials, nonprofit organization advocates, and school district representatives, these areas have worked hard to fight poverty rates over the years.
For more information about the Newburgh Anti-Poverty Initiative, call or email Rae Leiner (845-471-1900 ext. 3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org).