I have the honor of serving on the United Way of Kansas City Board of Directors which is skillfully lead by President /CEO Brent Stewart. At a recent meeting, United Way staff presented some statics about the Kansas City area that are alarming to me.
- One-half of the poor in the Kansa City area are under age 25
- One out of five infants and toddlers are poor
- One out of five young adults is poor
- Three out of five poor households are headed by women
- More than one in four families with children headed by a single mother is poor
- Adults 25 and older without a high school diploma are 4 times more likely to live in poverty
- Latinos are 3 and one-half times more likely to live in poverty than whites and African Americans are 3 times more likely to live in poverty than whites in the Kansa City Metro area
- Less than 4% of the metropolitan zip codes had median household incomes under $30,000 in 2010 and 8 out of 9 are clustered in the Kansas City east side –primarily east of Troost Street
What all this says to me is that we have many folks in our community who for lots of reasons lack hope for the future. Without hope life gets pretty difficult. So how do we as a community help restore hope to these residents? People want to work—we need to make more jobs available to the poor and underserved. We have to put a halt to homicides and work together to bring lasting peace to our neighborhoods. Aim 4 Peace has an impressive track record but they need more resources. We need to give these folks better access to health services – physical, mental and oral health. And finally, our schools need to be improved so when kids graduate they are prepared to enter college or enter the work force.
Mr. Ewing Kauffman taught me many years ago that the best social welfare program ever created is a good job with health and retirement benefits. We need to focus are job creation efforts in areas of our region that need the most help.