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Poverty programs target different areas

September 7, 2008
Officials trying to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots said they’re battling the problem of poverty in Columbiana County one program at a time. Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World, Bridges Out of Poverty, Framework for Understanding Poverty and Circles — all are programs aimed at shedding more light on poverty, with each program targeting a different battle front. “We’re trying to make every effort from every angle to make an impact on this important issue,” Community Outreach Coordinator Sondra O’Donnell of the Kent State University Salem City Center Workforce Development and Continuing Studies office said. Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World focuses on the people living in poverty while Bridges Out of Poverty focuses on the professionals who help them or hire them. Framework for Understanding Poverty is a program offered through the Educational Service Center for local teachers. Circles is a program in the works which O’Donnell said will resemble a Big Brothers/Big Sisters concept for families in poverty, hooking them up with mentors. “We’re looking at a comprehensive effort here,” she said, noting the issues See POVERTY, Page 3A sur rounding poverty are complex. When asked if poverty was a problem in Columbiana County, she answered “absolutely, poverty is a problem.” Diane Kloss, Workforce Development Director for KSU Salem and East Liverpool, said the community has more people now in situational poverty, with rising food, gas and utility costs and job losses, but had generational poverty more in the past, with two or more generations continuing the spiral. According to O’Donnell, 50.2 percent of Columbiana County residents live with an income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the level considered necessary for self-sufficiency. That’s half the population, not all living in poverty, but living close to what’s defined as poverty. For a household of one, an income at or below $1,734 per month is considered at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline. For a family of four, the amount is $3,534 per month. In Ohio in 2006, 30.6 percent of the population had incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level, according to “The Real Bottom Line,” a study of poverty in Ohio in 2008 prepared for the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies. Considering education or lack of education, another factor for poverty, O’Donnell said 21 percent of the population in Ohio are college graduates. More than 2.1 million Ohioans have no post-secondary education, that’s no college experience at all. In Salem, she said 10.5 percent of the population has a college degree. According to figures from October 2007, the most recent available, she said 40 percent of the children attending Salem schools qualified for free or reduced lunches. In the East Liverpool school district, the number was 70 percent. According to food stamp figures for Columbiana County, the numbers have risen since January from 5,486 families on food stamps to 5,643 families on food stamps in July. “We have to make people understand getting out of poverty is far more than getting a job,” O’Donnell said. The Getting Ahead workshop teaches participants, who are paid $8.50 per hour to attend the 30-hour course, how to build resources for a successful life, how to assess their financial situation and how to attain what’s needed for stability. Both O’Donnell and Kloss defended the pay given to participants, explaining the program is based on a philosophy that participants come to work when they attend, plus it motivates their attendance, which can help them learn some responsibility. “We start from square one — what’s your life like now? The reality for many people is not pretty,” O’Donnell said. People in poverty live in the moment, moving from one crisis to another. They worry about how to feed their family, whether the utilities will be cut off this month, whether the food stamps will last or how to pay for medical care. Their driving force is survival. For people in the middle class, the driving force is achievement. For the wealthy, they plan for legacy. The resources identified as necessary for success include financial, emotional, social support, physical, mental/education, motivation/persistance, language, spiritual, relationships/role models, hidden rules and integrity/trust. In the program, participants look at their resources and try to improve them. Last year, they had 71 graduates from the program for a 90 percent graduation rate. This year, the first two programs are already booked up with two more programs set from Jan. 6 to Feb. 17 in East Liverpool and from March 3 to April 14 in Salem. For more information, call 330-337-4234 or 330-337-4188. After graduation, participants can continue to access resources through presentations made by various speakers dealing with credit counseling, small business development, Child Support Enforcement, the One Stop, Career Center and other entities. Bridges Out of Poverty, the program for professionals and volunteers who work with folks in poverty, covers some of the same concepts. Kloss said the programs help both groups have a better understanding of each other. Kloss noted a one-day free program is planned from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Links at Firestone Farms in Columbiana, featuring Philip DeVol, who co-authored the book used for Bridges Out of Poverty and the book used for the Getting Ahead program. To register for the one-day program, call Cathy Saltsman at 330-424-7221. For information on other programs, call the Workforce Development office at 330-337-4187. Mary Ann Greier can be reached at


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