The Community Empowerment Initiative
“In the wake of a stalemated war on poverty, we need to move beyond the status quo and look at the tangible impact that local leadership is having on the programs and concepts that they have created to help those who are struggling in our communities. We need to focus on what works. Our goal should be moving people out of poverty and up the socioeconomic ladder, and we can start by turning to our local nonprofit leaders that are working to defeat hopelessness and offering concrete and aspirational futures.” – Congressman French Hill
Click here to see Congressman Hill's CEI Blog
President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty is more than fifty years old. But after decades of federal involvement and trillions of dollars of taxpayer money, almost 47 million Americans still live below the poverty line, and millions more are struggling to make ends meet.
WHY IT MATTERS
Poverty remains a serious challenge for our Nation and for Arkansas in particular. The Census Bureau estimated in 2014 that over 19 percent of Arkansans were poor, compared with a national rate of less than 16 percent. But this isn’t inevitable. Our current poverty rate isn’t random chance; it’s the result of decades of politics as usual. Since the 1960s, we’ve spent too much time arguing about a few controversial federal benefits, which doesn’t help the millions of hardworking people who still don’t have enough to get by. We need to return to the fundamental questions about poverty – what are the causes, and what can we do about it?
THE COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT INITIATIVE
These are often difficult to answer, but we do have some good evidence about what works to break the cycle of poverty and give everyone a fair chance. Most importantly, we know that opportunity doesn’t begin in Washington, D.C. It begins in our community with the people who are already making it a reality. We need to apply their expertise and solutions to the problems that families face around the country, and when the federal government gets involved in fighting poverty, we’ll be most successful if we focus on supporting their work.
In Central Arkansas, we have an extraordinary network of resources to meet that goal. Organizations like Our House, which has been feeding, housing, and providing job training for at-risk families and individuals since 1987; the O.K. Program, which mentors young African American men in the Little Rock schools; Greenbrier High School, which offers in-school career training and UALR college credit; and the Arkansas Rice Depot, which provides rice for organizations that feed the hungry throughout the state, have made great strides in getting every Arkansan a fair chance at success.
Congressman Hill started the Community Empowerment Initiative in 2015 to study these successful efforts to help people out of poverty and understand how we can build on their innovative solutions. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, but if we’re committed to strengthening our community institutions and expanding opportunity, we can make a real difference – in Central Arkansas and across the country.
In the last year, Congressman Hill has been meeting with leaders from around Central Arkansas who have successfully met the challenges we face in our community. Among the participants are:
John Bacon, eStem Public Charter Schools
Lauri Currier, The CALL
The Rev. C. J. Duvall, Jr., Philander Smith College
Kim Evans, Arkansas Community Foundation
Carol Fleming, National Education Association
Eric Gilmore, Immerse Arkansas
Tyra Greenwood, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters – Arkansas
Matthew Hampton, Elevate Entrepreneurship Systems
Glenn Hersey, St. Mark Baptist Church
Dr. Fitzgerald Hill, Arkansas Baptist College
William Holloway, Little Rock Compassion Center
Carmen Irby, Following Baby Back Home
Paul Kroger, Vine and Village
Ken Mace, St. Francis House Ministries
Dr. John W. Miller, University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Social Work / 100 Black Men of Greater Little Rock
Georgia Mjartan, Our House
Dr. Estella Morris, Veterans Day Treatment Center – Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System
Thelma Moton, Choosing to Excel
Donald Northcross, O.K. Program
Dr. Kathy Pillow-Price, Arkansas Home Visiting Network
Bill Plunkett, Habitat for Humanity of Central Arkansas
Penelope Poppers, Lucy’s Place
Cynthia Ramey, Family Promise of Pulaski County
Col. Mike Ross, Veterans Villages of America
Dr. Lisa Todd, Greenbrier Public Schools
Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation