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Editorial: Poverty Conference was valuable, now action is needed

By Longview News-Journal
Oct. 25, 2015 at 4 a.m.


The love of money might be the root of all evil, but the lack of it is the genesis of many of the problems we face today.

Yes, poverty is one of mankind's most bedeviling woes. And it's all around us.

Last month, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report on income and poverty in our nation and our metro area. The bottom line in both was that poverty rates largely remained steady from the previous year. But poverty is a complex and intractable issue, and a one-year snapshot doesn't necessarily illuminate long-term efforts or the changes they might bring.

But to not be working diligently to reduce poverty, even by a little each year, is to surrender to the lasting damage it causes for all of us.

Last week, LeTourneau University was host to a powerful conference on poverty sponsored by the Junior League of Longview and its partners. The conference was impressive not only because it brought Geoffrey Canada, a nationally known expert on addressing poverty, and an impressive lineup of breakout sessions, but because it led about 500 people to come together to discuss the problems of poverty right here in East Texas.

That impressive gathering shows that people in Gregg County understand we have a problem and are willing to take at least the first step to do something about it.

That first step sometimes is the most difficult.

Perhaps it is the kind of year we've had in Longview, with more violent crime than is typical for our city. Crimes of all types increase along with the depth of poverty a community faces. The two are inextricably linked. Most prosperous areas have very little crime, and what exists usually is not violent.

Education of children also suffers in poverty — not necessarily because the schools teach any differently but because children in poverty don't get the same kind of help at home as do their more affluent peers. Parents in these situations often work multiple jobs, which leaves little time for family. That, in turn, leads to all manner of other problems.

Those are just two examples. We have not talked about the food insecurity faced by thousands of children in our area, or the fact those nutritional gaps hinder learning. We have not mentioned that this despair leads to the growth of gangs and to drug abuse.

"Despair is contagious," Canada told his LeTourneau audience. "But so is hope."

The fact 500 people took a day to think about poverty should give each of us hope. It also should spur us to take action to reduce poverty in Gregg County. Even if the actions are small ones, or tentative, we must begin the process of moving ahead.

Our city has suffered a year when the results of poverty have smacked us full in the face. We don't care to have another like it.

The Junior League of Longview is to be praised for helping so many take that first step. We must ask, though: What happens next? As Canada made clear, there is no one-shot fix. There isn't a single solution. This is a problem that takes efforts and leadership from the street level on up. And the process of education and brainstorming must continue year after year.

We have hope, and faith, that we can make progress against poverty — because we must.

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