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New anti-poverty coalition in Syracuse to seek community input; push for policy changes

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News File Photo
The Mission District in Syracuse.

The United Way of Central New York has organized a new anti-poverty coalition to identify the biggest hurdles to getting out of poverty and to come up with policy solutions. The coalition is made up of people from a variety of different nonprofit organizations in the area that work with those in poverty on a daily basis.

Statistics that came out last year show that Syracuse continues to struggle with poverty. Frank Lazarski, the president of the United Way of Central New York said the new coalition is meant to engage the community to find out why.

“So is it affordable and good housing?" Lazarski asked. "Is it, do better with education? Is it the idea of I need better job training so I can get a job and then rise through the ranks and continue to achieve and have a career? There will be a lot of opportunity to listen to people in community forums that we're going to be holding so that we can hear from the people who have been in poverty and are out of it now or are in poverty and want to be out of it. We're going to be asking them to inform our efforts as well."

When they answer that question they say they can advocate for policy changes at the state and federal levels, such as not cutting a person's government subsidies immediately after they get a job. The coalition plans to take advantage of programs the United Way is already doing such as Work Train, which finds job opportunities and trains low-income city residents. But job training will not matter much, if there are no jobs available. 

“I believe the jobs are here in this community from entry level right up," Lazarski said. "We have them available at both ends of the spectrum. We need people who are going to be able to fulfill them.”

The coalition will start holding community forums in the spring.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.