A program designed to help families escape poverty in the American state of Georgia is serving as a model for other parts of the United States.
The program is a partnership between private donors and the city government in Atlanta, Georgia’s capital.
Today, the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta is a nice place to live. But 20 years ago the neighborhood was unsafe and looked unappealing.
Recently, VOA reporter Chris Simkins visited East Lake and spoke with Daniel Shoy, the president of the East Lake Foundation. The foundation was set up to help people in the community.
“More than 20 years ago this was the home to East Lake Meadows, which was one of the nation’s most violent housing developments, and today is probably one of the most promising.”
The city and private charities are spending $150 million to help poor families escape poverty.
Carol Naughton works for a non-profit group called Purpose Built Communities. It works with local leaders to help improve communities.
“The absolute idea of income inequality is part of the problem, but the lack of social mobility is just as big a problem. If people in America don't feel like they have a reasonable shot at working and earning a better life and creating a better opportunity for their children, I think our democracy is threatened at its very core.”
East Lake Village is home to about 2,100 people. Only low or middle-income individuals are permitted to live there. The housing development has banks, a grocery store and other businesses usually found in higher income neighborhoods.
Young people in East Lake are given help with their education so they can go to college and get a good job.
Twenty years ago, an average family of four in this neighborhood struggled to earn $4,500 a year. Shoy says the average income is now about $20,000.
“There was only 14 percent employment in this community. Now we see a hundred percent employment for the families that we work with who are living in the subsidized units. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in annual household income.”
Michelle Campbell and her family have experienced success since they moved to East Lake in 2013. Campbell helps operate the housing development. She is building wealth and will soon buy her first home.
“This type of program encourage(s) self-sufficiency. It is a move-to-work program, so the residents are required to work 30 hours or more in order to be on the program. And the goal is geared to them getting off the program, finding a home, getting into a better position financially.”
East Lake leaders say its success can be a model for what is possible when people come together to end poverty.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Words in This Story
charity – n. an organization that helps people who are poor, sick, etc.
social mobility – n. the ability or tendency to move from one position or situation to another usually better one; the opportunity to improve one’s situation in life
shot – n. informal chance, opportunity
core – n. the most important or basic part of something
income – n. money that is earned from work, investments, business, etc.
subsidize – v. to help someone or something pay for the costs of (something)
unit – n. one of a number of apartments in a building
annual – adj. yearly
encourage – v. to make (someone) more determined, hopeful or confident
self-sufficiency – n. the act of being able to live or function without help or support from others
geared – v. aimed at, designed for; to get ready or to cause (someone) to get ready for something or to do something