povertyIt appears that Cumberland County Commissioners and Fayetteville City Council members are about to take on fighting poverty as a priority in the year ahead, and beyond. Local government and school board members often refer to budgetary needs not being met because ours is a “low wealth community.” Councilman Kirk deViere says his wake-up call came when he began campaigning for the District 2 council seat he now holds. The district is comprised of some of the poorest and wealthiest neighborhoods in Fayetteville. He found that three of the city’s six economically distressed census tracts are in District 2.
Coincidentally, newly-named County Commission Chairman Glenn Adams also acknowledged poverty in Cumberland County during his acceptance speech in early December. He said it’s important for the board “to discuss and bring action to the issue of poverty because poverty involves everyone’s lives. This issue must be addressed head-on in the next year; we cannot and will not be afraid to be a great community,” he declared.
The census tracts deViere represents that are among the poorest in Fayetteville include Massey Hill, Downtown/Hillsboro Street and Old Wilmington Road. District 2 also includes parts of Haymount and the “gold coast” near Highland Country Club. In a report to City Council deViere identified five major indicators of wealth or the lack of it: Segregation, income inequality, school quality, social capital and family structure.
Using census data, he found that one in four Fayetteville residents lives in poverty. Annual income of $24,300 is the poverty level for a family of four. The 2016 federal poverty level is used to calculate eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. DeViere found that Cumberland County is dead last among the U.S. 100 largest economic centers in earnings potential for children growing up in poverty; that single mothers represent 67.5 percent of local residents living below the poverty line; that 23.6 percent of impoverished residents are African American; 20.5 percent are Hispanic. “When we take action to change economic inequalities, we will change lives,” deViere said. Following a 15-minute presentation to City Council, his colleagues voted unanimously to begin the process of learning more about aligning the community to address poverty.
Adams contends that as the issue of poverty is discussed, the murder rate in our community must also be addressed. The City of Fayetteville recorded the highest number of homicides in its history last year, 31. Eighty-seven individuals charged with murder are awaiting trial in the county jail “and a large number of those are black men killing black men,” Adams noted. “We cannot put our heads in the sand and act like this is not a problem,” he said in his Dec. 5 address.
Both officials recognize that coming to grips with poverty will make Fayetteville and Cumberland County a more desirable place for youth to stay, local college graduates to return home and make the community more attractive to business and entrepreneurs. DeViere calls the process “pathways for prosperity.”

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