Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Newsletter

Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity Newsletter:
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Center Happenings

Welcome to the Center's Newsletter!

We will begin using this quarterly newsletter to keep our friends, partners, supporters, and interested community members informed about the work that the Center is doing to raise poverty and related issues to the forefront of our public discourse.

If you wish to be removed from our listserv, email poverty_center@unc.edu with unsubscribe in the subject line.

Recent Work

Since early this year, the Center has been working together with the NC NAACP, the NC Justice Center, the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at NC Central University, and AARP of NC to examine poverty by traveling across the state and speaking with North Carolinians in 27 communities about their experiences living in poverty. The goal was to hear from those who struggle with poverty every day in order to shine a light on the truth of poverty in North Carolina. The Truth and Hope Poverty Tour was launched in January and took four separate trips:

  • January 19 & 20: Northeast Tour - Washington, Roper, Elizabeth City, Winton, Scotland Neck, Rocky Mount
  • March 2 & 3: Southeast Tour - Greenville, Goldsboro, Faison, Dudley, Wilmington, Supply, Navassa, Red Springs, Fayetteville
  • April 30 & May 1: Western Tour - Greensboro, Wentworth, Mt. Airy, Salisbury, East Spencer, Hickory, Hendersonville, Charlotte
  • July 20: Triangle Tour - Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill

Following the tours, the Truth and Hope Poverty Tour Summit: Putting a Face on Poverty was hosted on August 11 in Rocky Mount. The Summit brought together residents of many of the communities visited as well as the media, organizations, and others interested in understanding the story of poverty in our state and creating a plan for change. During the Summit, attendees screened the Poverty Tour documentary, "Truth and Hope: The Challenge to Address Poverty in Our Communities" produced by Cash Michaels. Attendees also had opportunities to hear from Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, NC NAACP President, Gene Nichol, Center Director, and fellow community members about their poverty struggles. In small groups, attendees discussed their ideas for raising awareness of poverty, bringing poverty to the forefront of public discourse in our legislature, and reducing the overall poverty in our state.

We will keep you updated as our work with the Poverty Tour partners and the many people we met on the Tour continues.

Upcoming Events

Screening & Discussion of NC Poverty Tour Documentary

Monday, September 24, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., Classroom 4004

Join us for a screening and discussion of the NC Poverty Tour Documentary produced by Cash Michaels to hear the stories of individuals facing poverty across NC. Over a period of six months, the Poverty Tour traveled over 2,000 miles to 27 communities on four separate trips and spoke to thousands of individuals about their experiences with poverty. The Documentary highlights those stories as we think about where the Tour will take us next. Professor Nichol will introduce the documentary and students who participated in the Tour will speak about their experiences. This event is sponsored by the Center in partnership with the Office of Public Service Programs and the UNC Law Pro Bono Program.

Student Research at the Center

Our student research assistants have been hard at work this summer researching some really important issues that impact low-income North Carolinians. From research on federal prepaid card regulation to the process of setting electricity rates by NC utilities companies, each student has flexed their research skills and developed intriguing work.

The Center would like to thank all of our summer interns for their thoughtful work and dedication to this issue: Galo Centenera, Capricia Davis, Andrew Hennessy-Strahs, Amy Mills, Natalya Rice, Michael Shapiro, Marcie Smith, and Justice Warren.

Here are brief summaries of a few of this summer's projects:

Prepaid cards

Justice Warren, summer research assistant, drafted comments in response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Advanced Notice of Rulemaking in support of prepaid card reforms that protect consumers while allowing prepaid cards to be a viable alternative means of conducting financial affairs for consumers who cannot access traditional bank accounts or who find such accounts do not meet their needs. For more information about prepaid cards, visit the Ask CFPB website on prepaid cards.

Utilities

Michael Shapiro, summer research assistant, drafted comments in support of a request before the NC Utilities Commission to examine the way that Duke Energy allocates its rates. He argues that Duke's current method unfairly burdens residences and small businesses and has an especially harmful impact on poor people. See NC WARN's news release about Gene Nichol's call for a change in the way electricity rates are decided.

Collateral consequences of mass incarceration

Natalya Rice, summer research assistant, prepared research on the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, with an additional focus on how race plays into this discussion. Collateral consequences are direct and indirect consequences of incarceration that impact offenders during and after their incarceration, including civil disabilities impacting one's ability to access public benefits or vote, employment barriers, and the impact on local communities and families. Read Natalya's research.

Homelessness

Galo Centenera, summer research assistant, documented stories of homelessness in Elizabeth City and Fayetteville. After hearing from the homeless population on the Poverty Tour, the Center was interested in learning more about these two communities, their response to homelessness and their unique local challenges. In Elizabeth City, Galo met Eugene and Volanda Watts who are serving the homeless population in Pasquotank County and looking to turn a former jail into a "social rehabilitation center." Learn more about homelessness in Elizabeth City. In Fayetteville, Galo focused on the homeless veteran population and met with Veteran's Administration officials to hear about their efforts to prevent homelessness in their community. Learn more about homeless veterans in Fayetteville.

Other topics of interest from the Poverty Tour

Many of our summer interns assisted with research following on the Poverty Tour and stories we heard in communities across our state, particularly Eastern North Carolina. We will continue to share information on this research as it becomes available.

Center in the News

NC poverty tour groups hold summit this weekend

CBS News, August 9, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. - An up-close examination of poverty across North Carolina this year revealed the faces behind the statistics of homelessness and unemployment, as well as the people who will help find the solutions, organizers of the anti-poverty tour said Wednesday.

"We have been profoundly changed by what we've seen," said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, at a news conference to discuss the Truth and Hope Poverty Tour.

Leaders of the tour, which included representatives of other socially minded organizations, discussed what they saw during a four-leg trip that began in January and ended a few weeks ago. They'll also hold a summit this weekend in Rocky Mount to develop strategies for making poverty reduction a focus for policy-makers.

Read the full article.

U.S. legal system thwarts justice for the poor

Kansas City Star, July 3, 2012, op-ed by Gene Nichol

We carve "equal justice under law" on our courthouse walls. It is the cornerstone of our system of adjudication. For a half-century, we've announced as a fundamental principal of our constitutional law "there can be no justice where the kind of trial a person gets depends on the amount of money he has." But what we do is hard to square with what we say.

Lawyers cost money. Some have it. Lots don't. Yet unlike many industrial nations, we recognize no general right to representation in civil cases. Less than 1 percent of our total expenditure for lawyers goes toward services for the poor. We have one lawyer for about every 400 people generally, and one legal services lawyer for every 7,500 persons living in poverty. Study after study shows at least 80 percent of the legal need of the poor is unmet. We think it natural that a commercial dispute between battling corporations takes six months to try, while the fate of a battered child is determined in a few moments. The system we have is powerfully, dramatically and fundamentally at odds with who we say we are.

Read the full article.

We simply won't look at poverty

News & Observer, June 3, 2012, op-ed by Gene Nichol

I've spent a good deal of time on Jones Street in Raleigh of late. The legislature's in gear. Folks on a mission. The state House offered a budget, as is now its tradition, leaving brutal holes in Medicaid, pre-K and K-12, need-based financial aid, mental health care and public transit – though it is poised to grant new corporate tax breaks that are impressively avant-garde. The leaders know what they want to hear and whom they want to please. The train is moving.

But having also spent much time, in recent weeks, in the field with the NAACP, I'm struck by those who won't make it to the statehouse agenda.

Read the full article.

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For more information about the Poverty Center or to reach a staff person, please contact poverty_center@unc.edu.