Education, News, race

Combating poverty and other barriers, Wayne County coalition focuses on equitable economic development

Marking nearly a year of planning and progress in Goldsboro, a group of community residents, nonprofit leaders and elected officials that have been part of an initiative focusing on equitable economic development known as WAYne Forward, hosted a Fall Summit to discuss the ways in which the community can address poverty through collective effort. With high energy and deep conversations, the event highlighted the value of sustained work that brings many stakeholders together to promote opportunity for all.

These aren’t always easy conversations. A history of exclusion and discrimination that persists in eastern North Carolina creates barriers for current residents, as have policy choices and systems that block opportunity. Problems ranging from disproportionate suspension rates of minorities to disproportionate juvenile court rates and detention admittance rates to the lack of affordable housing and too few good paying jobs with career pathways. As well, multiple census tracts or neighborhoods in the county experience a poverty rate of over 30 percent, delivering what is considered a double burden on residents poor and not poor.

Yet, for the past year, the community organized around these troubling outcomes and has been working to understand the landscape of opportunity in their community. Building from community-based outreach such as food drives or school reading initiatives, these are just some of the ways Wayne County aims to bridge the gaps to fight poverty. Along with a continued emphasis on building a strong civic leadership, and grassroots network that can mobilize and organize residents, and a growing effort to revitalize main streets and lift up the arts and regional connections the community has proven assets to build on.

Still like many places, Goldsboro has its obstacles to overcome. In 2014, it was ranked as one of the areas with the greatest decline in the middle class by Pew Research Center. Research by the UNC Poverty Fund released last year found the persistent and concentrated poverty in Goldsboro along with systemic exclusion of communities of color was creating a toxic environment for children.

The opportunity to demonstrate solutions that have been proven to work and advance the wellbeing of all residents is available in Wayne County. Read more