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Anti-poverty conference offers hope, solutions

By: Katie Lepri

On Saturday, more than 100 social justice advocates, grassroots organizations, policymakers and others gathered for South Florida’s first Anti-Poverty Summit in Miami with one goal: find ways to reduce Miami’s high poverty rate.

Event organizers considered it an opportunity for the community to work together to identify county and state policies, and practices, that are successful in lifting the poor out of poverty. Potential solutions included ending workplace discrimination, increasing the minimum wage (Florida’s current minimum wage is $7.93) and boosting housing rental assistance.

For Miami-Dade county commissioner-elect Daniella Levine Cava, founder of Catalyst Miami, which co-hosted the event, reducing poverty is “the work that this community has required for decades.”

The conference comes at a time when Miami’s poverty rate stands at 17 percent, while nationally it’s 14.5 percent. The Census Bureau reported in September that the poverty rate nationwide declined in 2013 for the first time since 2006.

Nationwide, the number of people living at or below the poverty line — some 45.3 million — has remained about the same for the last three years. The federal government deems a family of four with an annual income of $23,850 or less as living below the poverty line.

Cava is determined to move her political agenda forward to make real legislative change for what she says are the nearly 70 percent of households in Miami-Dade that are financially at risk of falling below the poverty line.

“The fundamentals, the basics of life, are still very much as risk for many of our residents,” she said. “Now that the economy is recovering, this is the opportunity to really be more inclusive in how we grow.”

The daylong event featured state and local government representatives, including State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, state Reps. Cynthia Stafford, D-Opa-locka, and Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, along with community activists and policy experts.

The summit was nationally supported by Half in Ten, a project of the Center for American Progress dedicated to cutting poverty in half in ten years, along with Catalyst Miami and South Florida Voices for Working Families.

“After any election, it’s important to elevate the issues of the community and make sure that they’re being heard by the people that are in a position to actually make shifts changes in public policy,” said Gretchen Beesing, CEO of Catalyst Miami.

“We’re always trying to identify opportunities to create healthier, more prosperous, safer communities,” said Miguel Milanes, regional vice president of the Allegany Franciscan Ministries. “This event is hopefully the beginning of a conversation — it’s not the end.”


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