Members From Eight Mid-Missouri Communities Discuss Poverty and Economic Stability.
COLUMBIA - The mid-Missouri Community Alliance Summit was Tuesday in Columbia.
About 150 community members, officials and organizations from eight Mid-Missouri counties participated in the summit at the Courtyard by Marriot.
CMCA Executive Director said, "It's part of our underlying mission to bring people together, bring the community together to come up with a solution."
Sharia Thompson moved to Columbia with her family four years ago, and right away needed help with her utility bills.
"In that crisis you reach out to wherever you can find help," said Thompson.
Earnette Smith had the same struggles. Smith went to CMCA for assistance, and after the organization helped him out he decided to give back and volunteer. He emceed the community alliance summit.
Smith said, "A lot of people aren't aware, and I don't just think they're trying to put a blind eye to it, they really don't know poverty exists in these areas."
CMCA says 38,818 people in Mid-Missouri are low wage workers. This means they make less than $20,605 to support a family of four. The actual living wage for a family of four is $37,334...leaving a $16,729 gap.
"We're working, but minimum wage or 50 cents above minimum wage isn't enough for a family of any size let alone a family of six," said Thompson.
"You wouldn't necessarily look at me and know that I am in poverty and I face issues and struggles," said summit participant Carrie Holohan.
Both Holohan and Thompson struggle with the gap between making too much to qualify for food stamps, Medicaid and daycare assistance and making enough to pay for them herself.
"I'm on the line of making too much money, so it's very scary...if I lost my daycare assistance, I don't know what I would do," said Holohan.
Thompson says there's a big miscommunication between national policies and programs and what's actually going on in the community.
"It's easy for people to stay stuck because they know that if they move forward, they'll lose those benefits," said Holohan.
"We are definitely seeing people who are struggling, who are less and less economically secure...we're seeing that just as our economy has been experiencing it's ups and down and underlying all of that poverty hasn't gone away over the last 40 years, in fact it's gone up," said CMCA Executive Director Darin Preis.
"It doesn't just attack lower income people, it can get us all and it's hard to get out of, but it can be done," said Holohan.
Community members, officials and organizations from Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau and Osage Counties are looking for solutions to these problems.
At the summit participants listened to guest speakers and broke down into small groups to discuss problems with poverty and economic stability in their counties.
"No one person, no one entity, no one agency can do it alone. It's going to take the entire community working together to address the needs that every community has," said CMCA Community Services Director Angela Hirsch.
But summits like the one held Tuesday are the first step. The goal of this summit was to enhance hope, establish unity and initiate change.
Participants committed to continue discussing solutions for their home counties.