Set up a war room in downtown Athens for fighting local poverty.
In military terms, the war room is the place that coordinates military activities. Situation reports come in. Progress is gauged. Tactics discussed. Orders issued. The resources and authority for decision-making are concentrated under one roof.
Under the one roof of the local anti-poverty war room, you’d find more than a one-stop shop for low-income people seeking help from existing programs.
What you’d find is the community’s best anti-poverty fighters working closely together to help individual low-income people solve problems and then using that day-to-day experience to build better local systems of help.
And you’d feel the urgency, the intensity in the room.
Less abstractly, here’s what you’d encounter if you walked into that war room downtown:
- Low-income people interacting with the best case-managers from every major local anti-poverty program in town;
- An emergency needs taskforce ready to provide housing, food or health care;
- Scouts returning from reconnaissance missions with information about people who might need help, but haven’t yet sought it out;
- Charity monitors keeping track of which churches and non-profits have what on hand;
- A data squad gathering and reporting information need to track progress;
- A story corps interviewing clients and case-managers so they can tell the community about what’s happening in the war room and to low-income people in Athens;
- A phalanx of grant-writers and policy innovators seeking financial help from and pitching ideas to foundations and government programs;
- A giant whiteboard covered with numbers recording the daily progress (or lack of it) in reducing poverty; and
- A round table where, every day, everyone who works in the war room gets together to solve tough cases and share ideas about how to make helping more effective and efficient in Athens.
In a county like ours, where the 30.8 percent poverty rate is more than double state and national rates, doing the best job we can locally to reduce poverty has got to be a priority.
It’s true that the war room analogy is not perfect. Fighting poverty is more about creating and building things—like pathways to good jobs, affordable housing, good schools—than it is about blowing things up. But a war room concentrates and networks resources. It creates shared responsibility and a sense of urgency. We need that.
Creating the anti-poverty war room is important, but so is its location. It should be downtown. Besides being accessible for low-income people, downtown is a place of attention and resources. It’s the most vital hub of our community. It’s the best place to gather our forces and stay focused on the fight against poverty.
Who the Suggestion is For
This is a suggestion for anti-poverty programs and groups in Athens. It was, in part, inspired by—and builds on—the community recommendations for addressing poverty published by Partners for a Prosperous Athens (now OneAthens) in 2006, a document I've been looking at lately.
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Got a suggestion? Serious or half-baked or both? Keep it under 500 words, follow the format you see here, and email it to me. I might post it.
NOTE: This post is a somewhat similar to a longer post I wrote for another blog.