GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Nearly one in five people in Oregon are in poverty, according to Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes, who headlined a summit in Grants Pass on Monday to help improve the situation of those who are in need.
Southern Oregon is now part of a statewide pilot project, led by First Lady Hayes, called the Prosperity Initiative. The goal is to reduce poverty from its current level of 17 percent to below 10 percent by 2020.
Monday’s summit was the first step in the pilot project. It focuses on connecting people in need with “navigators,” or community members who volunteer assistance in their specialty area. It also focuses on community education. First Lady Cylvia Hayes says that one of the big barriers is breaking down the negative stereotypes associated with poverty.
“This is not ‘us and them’. This is not just about people who aren’t willing to work hard. 70 percent of the kids in poverty are from working families,” said Cylvia Hayes.
Summit organizers say that Monday’s event was meant to identify those navigators, or community experts. That can include anyone with advice around things like resume building, educational opportunities, healthcare, social services, and more. They also say that once they have found those volunteers, they’ll hold another event to connect navigators to people in need.
Hayes says that she and the governor are also working on relieving poverty through other means, things like education, health care reform, and income tax credits.