Youth are the future of the community. And that future looks bleak as many studies show that a high proportion of them are living in poverty. A group made up of representatives from the Milwaukee County community is coming together to look at poverty, how it is impacting area children and what can be done to create a better future for them.
The Youth and Poverty Task Force organized by the Social Development Commission (SDC) held its initial meeting Wednesday. The group is co-chaired by SDC Commissioners Dr. Demond Means and Dr. Gary Williams and includes Tony Baez of Centro Hispano, Richard Cox of Neighborhood House, Chytania Brown of the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, Ger Vang of Lao Family Community, Dr. Earnestine Willis of the Medical College of Wisconsin, Myra Edwards from Mayor Tom Barrett’s office and Dr. Decoteau Irby from UW-Milwaukee.
The Task Force will look at the impact of poverty on Milwaukee County youth, identify root causes of poverty for young people, recommend practical solutions that can be implemented by SDC to address those root causes, and develop recommendations for policy changes at the city, county and state levels of government. A final report is planned to be developed by mid-summer and will be shared with policy makers.
At the first meeting, Task Force members engaged in an exchange of ideas and looked at recent studies that show the extent of poverty in the young population of the County. For example, U.S. Census Bureau figures show that 42.6% of Milwaukee children under the age of 18 live in poverty. Other areas of discussion examined ties between poverty and health care issues, the hidden impact of poverty on undocumented families, and how policy decisions far away from Milwaukee are impacting youth and the poor as well as organizations that serve them.
Co-Chair Means told the group members that young people are the future of Milwaukee County and that we can’t afford to be let then fall any further. The Task Force, he said, will be pool all the members’ experience and expertise to develop strategies to break the cycle of poverty impacting so many youth.