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UToledo Expertise Sought to Examine Poverty in City, County

A new study by the Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center at The University of Toledo focuses on poverty in Toledo and Lucas County using different lenses and sheds new light on who is struggling in our area and why.

Toledo City Council commissioned UToledo experts to prepare the report and offer recommendations based on successful practices demonstrated in other cities.

Dr. Sujata Shetty talked about the report that examines local poverty during a Toledo City Council Committee meeting Aug. 15.

“Our goal is to provide a more nuanced understanding of poverty and encourage targeted collaboration,” said Dr. Sujata Shetty, professor in the UToledo Department of Geography and Planning, interim director of the Jack Ford Urban Affairs Center, and lead researcher on the report. “Thank you to Toledo City Council and the city of Toledo for the opportunity to do this critical work, which we hope will be useful to the city, spark meaningful change, and help families.”

The report examines housing affordability, educational attainment, employment, cost of living and other factors associated with poverty, as well as geographic areas that show relatively higher concentrations of poverty and related characteristics.

“We care deeply about the community and are proud to be Toledo’s university,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “As a public institution, the heart of our mission is to use our expertise and knowledge to improve lives.”

The study’s findings using 2017 data include:

• 26.5% of residents in the city of Toledo lived below the federal poverty level, compared to 19% of Lucas County residents.

• 32.3% of the city’s residents had a high school diploma as their highest educational attainment.

• 48% of city residents are renters, and 52% own their home.

The report also offers solutions that other cities found to be effective in fighting poverty and helping families.

Those anti-poverty initiatives include:

• Cincinnati’s “Hand Up Initiative,” which provides people in dire need with training opportunities and gets them back to work into jobs with higher pay through partnerships with organizations and corporations, focused on fields such as truck driving, construction and home-care aid.

• St. Paul’s “Job Opportunity Fund,” which offers $500,000 in low-interest loans to spur job creation and retention by supporting business ventures in defined areas of concentrated poverty.

• Lancaster’s “Commission to Combat Poverty” and “One Year Strategies,” which resulted in the creation of nine functioning “action teams” that focus on a particular segment of the poverty challenge, such as jobs action, food security, education and data analysis.

• Rochester’s “Kiva Rochester Crowdfunded Loans Program,” where residents can apply for loans ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 with 0% interest and no fees. The fees are crowdfunded, and the loans are for small business owners looking to create jobs by performing renovations, paying training fees, and buying new equipment.

Several UToledo graduate students assisted on this project, including Alex DiBell, who is pursuing a master’s degree in geography and planning while working as a policy intern for Toledo City Council, and Ph.D. students Brittany Jones and Philemon Abayateye.

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