SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– Throughout this week NewsChannel 9 has been introducing you to the issues surrounding childhood poverty in the City of Syracuse. What it means, what it looks like and how community leaders are working to fight it every day.
But what is the solution? Is it attainable? What will it take?
For one homeless family of eight in Syracuse, it took a whole community coming together to create a change.
Mom, Anethra Bivins came to Syracuse late last year with her seven kids. They were escaping a domestic violence situation in Alabama and boarded a bus to the Salt City.
When they arrived in Syracuse they were entrenched in poverty, with no money and no place to go, until the kids met their physical education teacher at Dr. King Elementary School.
When Coach Maryam Ek Kaufman learned the family was staying at a homeless shelter she knew she needed to help and she did, in a big way.
She and her husband decided to buy the family of eight their forever home, soliciting the help of the entire community to fully furnish the house, put food in the fridge and a minivan in the garage.
Coach Ek said it was a calling from God, feeling the need to do more for those around her.
“So I hope that other people feel empowered and if it’s not buy a house maybe it is help someone get an apartment and work on the logistics of financially stabilizing somebody to get on their feet again. This is not a here have this gift and walk away, this is a life-long partnership. We’re going to be doing community together. I’m walking alongside mom.”Maryam Ek Kaufman, Physical Education Teacher Dr. King Elementary
This is just one example of what paying it forward can do for someone living in poverty. It’s this mindset of helping your fellow neighbor, friend, or even a total stranger that Syracuse community leaders say is necessary to end the crisis.
That includes properly allocating resources to organizations on the ground doing the work, funds Hill says are hard to come by.
“Personally I would like to see more consistency among the changes even amongst the funneling of funding. If we get funding for a project the next thing you know is the funding is cut and we don’t have it anymore so it’s hard to continue what we’ve started without the funding,” Hill said.
It’s a responsibility Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens has to make sure resources are being used to their fullest potential.
“It is about providing the supports that every family who has children need whether they’re working poor or they’re in a training program they need those well-rounded supports to help them get to the next phase,” Deputy Mayor Owens said.
The hope is to come together across platforms and work together to find a solution. For people like Kenneth Hills and Valerie Hill, the Southwest Community Center is a good place to start.
“This place is so enriched with knowledge, resources with love that it’s a beacon in the community that’s exactly the way I see it. The name itself Syracuse Community Connections, we connect. If we don’t have what someone needs here we will find out we will find the place that we need to go to get that resource for them,”Valerie Hill, Syracuse Community Connections
It’s a lifelong commitment Syracuse Community Health Center CEO Mark Hall has made too.
“I love Syracuse and Central New York and if I didn’t believe in what the mission of the Health Center was and that we can make a difference in the lives of everyday people and children…I wouldn’t be here. So we, we have our task in front of us and… I, I’ve seriously believe and honestly believe that… it’s a mountain that can be overcome. I really believe that.” Mark Hall
And it’s one that becomes easier to climb when you’re fighting the fight together, leaning on those not just in Syracuse but neighboring cities too.
“It’s one thing if you didn’t know, you know, but when so many people are spreading awareness about Syracuse and Rochester being number one and number two for poverty in the nation that has to kind of raise red flags in your own moral compass and it has to spark you to act,” Save Rochester Executive Director Mike Johnson said.
Action we all need to take to spark real change.
“I just want to say Syracuse we are a resilient people we’re the Salt City and we’re the salt of the earth people,” Deputy Mayor Owens said. “Don’t let the numbers get us down continue to do what we do we take on challenge all the time let’s continue to take this one on because our next generation is counting on us to do it.”
Whether it’s a monetary donation, volunteering your time, or just being a good neighbor, whatever you can give will make a difference.
This conversation on poverty is one NewsChannel 9 plans to continue in the weeks and months ahead and it’s one we hope you’ll continue to be a part of.