Thoughts and reports, that’s what the poor get from the City of Winston-Salem. Sure, the City distributes a great deal of money to local non-profits, that do some decent work addressing the immediate needs of the poor. But the City of Winston-Salem is by no means marshaling the resources at its disposal to address poverty in the Twin City.
At the start of Monday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Joines proclaimed September, “Think Orange Month” in Winston-Salem. The Mayor and W-S Alliance president first announced his “Think Orange” campaign in August 2018. The Think Orange campaign began with a six-figure grant that brought together the City, corporate leaders, and local non-profits to address food insecurity. Mayor Joines organized a “Think Orange” investment fund in April to sustain his anti-hunger initiative.
The campaign comprises nine major initiatives:
-Expand participation in summer feeding programs;
-Explore starting a hot meals after-school program for children;
-Add a mid-week farmers market and promote use of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cards at farmers markets;
-Expand participation in SNAP program;
-Provide fresh food to H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Eat) recipients;
-Create a food resources website;
-Engage Winston-Salem’s corporate leadership;
-Hold a childhood hunger “summit” to discuss a coordinated city- and county-wide effort to address the issue of childhood hunger in our community; and
-Raise community awareness of hunger and food insecurity. (Source: City of W-S)
The City of Winston-Salem is largely reducing the multi-faceted problem of poverty in the city to food insecurity. Again, this is not a bad program; food insecurity needs to be addressed. But once the City Council ensures that children aren’t going to bed hungry, they need to address rising eviction rates, invest in affordable housing and work towards a longterm plan to address neighborhood segregation, unequal zoning regulations, and an inadequate public transit system. The County needs to stop prosecuting nonviolent drug offenses, address its separate and unequal schools, and distribute more resources to East Winston.
Instead of thinking orange, we should see red. When we see dire poverty in a community with so much wealth, it should upset us. It’s an injustice that so many people on the wrong side of Highway 52 live in homes unfit for human habitation while others in our city live pampered lives of luxury.
Poverty will not be solved by charity or good intentions. It sure as hell won’t be solved by a campaign that involves wearing orange socks. We have to take resources (taxes) from those who have the most and fund those who have the least.
Mayor Joines’ phony war on poverty was announced in 2015 after a Harvard study named Forsyth County as the worst place in the country for economic mobility (besides two Indian reservations) and another study found Winston had alarming rates of food insecurity.
In 2017 the Mayor’s Poverty Thought Force released its final report after 15 months. One of the Poverty Thought Force’s recommendations was to create a ‘Poverty Czar.” John Railey is effectively the city’s poverty czar.
The longtime writer at the Journal now heads the Partnership for Prosperity; a non-profit initiative that in theory, works to implement the recommendations of the Poverty Thought Force. Thus far, the Partnership for Prosperity has held a series of poverty listening sessions and held classes to teach the poor how to budget. The toothless organization (that answers to the Mayor) hasn’t done much to address poverty in Winston.
Addressing poverty at the local level is going to take more resources than the City of Winston-Salem has. State and federal resources are needed. But with an annual budget of nearly $500 million, the City could be doing a lot more to address poverty in our divided city.