From the Greater Louisville Project’s 2017 Competitive City Update

Some 21 percent of children in Louisville live in poverty, a report released Tuesday shows, down from a peak level of 28 percent in 2011.

Even so, the report, “Poverty Beyond Income,” from the nonprofit Greater Louisville Project, shows that more than one in five children lives in poverty: That is 38,000 children, enough to fill two KFC Yum Centers, three Slugger fields or four (future) Louisville City FC soccer stadiums, GLP said.

Because of the many human, social, community and financial costs of poverty, GLP said, Louisville is missing out on $200 million per year of economic growth.

The 2017 Competitive City Update focuses on the barriers families face to rising out of poverty, such as housing expenses, low income, education and the cost of household goods, as well as the impact of poverty on the community.

The report is created to serve as a guidepost for funders looking to shape their giving and as a push for re-envisioning service coordination within the social sector in Louisville. The 2015 Competitive Cities Report, “A Focus on Poverty,” examined the impact of concentrated multidimensional poverty on neighborhoods.

“We’ve done a really good job of attracting jobs to get people out of poverty,” said Ben Reno-Weber, director of the Greater Louisville Project. “One of the exciting things to me is that we’re not actually terrible in terms of our childhood poverty rate. We’re seventh out of 17. What that means is that we could really get into the top tier of our peer cities.”

From the Greater Louisville Project’s 2017 Competitive City Update

Some highlights from this year’s report include:

  • 67 percent of households in poverty include at least one person who works, but doesn’t earn enough money to lift the family out of poverty.
  • A family in poverty will pay 6 percent more for household goods than a family not in poverty.
  • Workers in poverty are four times more likely to rely on public transportation, which creates barriers to where and when they can live, work and shop.
  • 43 percent of children eligible for free and reduced-price lunches are kindergarten-ready, while 71 percent of those not eligible are kindergarten-ready.
  • 62 percent of poor children in Louisville lived in families that spent more than half their income on housing costs.

Jeff Polson, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence and Greater Louisville Project board member, said in a news release: “As a community, this is a call for us to create an integrated approach through which funders, employers and social services agencies work together to empower all of our citizens. If we are going to end generational poverty, we cannot simply meet immediate needs in isolation; we must address multiple dimensions.”

Reno-Weber said the GLP is designed to furnish the data for other agencies in Louisville that do the work to prevent poverty and aid those in poverty.

“The important part is the circle in the middle,” he said. “We need to have a collective vision where every time someone in our community shows up in need, we have a way to connect that person not just to the resources they need to feed that one need, but to the full range of resources to support their household. We just haven’t articulated that as a community.”

Tom Walton, executive-in-residence at the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health, is part of the Louisville Health Advisory Board’s Community Coordination of Care Committee. The committee is working with an assessment tool called PRAPARE (Protocol for Responding to and Assessing Patients’ Assets, Risks and Experiences), with the goal of having organizations all over the city adopt it and use it to collect data on the unmet needs of people in the community.

When this data is collected, it will help the Health Advisory Board create a standard of care in multiple community organizations, including health care, education, criminal justice, housing, etc.

“We want to improve everybody’s health and well-being, not just their health,” Walton said.

The tool is organized around things such as food and housing insecurity, and by having many organizations adopt the tool, it asks the same questions throughout the community to try to meet people’s needs.

Walton said the poverty report brings to light the far-reaching influence of the problem.

“I think what it does is it articulates to multiple people in the community the impact of poverty,” Walton said. “I’m not sure that we’re always aware of its multidimensional nature.”

Despite the bleak nature of the poverty report, Reno-Weber is excited about the report and what it means for the future of Louisville.

“I feel like we’re on the cusp of something really powerful,” he said. “Because lots of different parts of our community are starting to articulate a vision like that. You talk to United Way, you talk to the Louisville Health Advisory Board, you talk to the education community, they all get it. What we’re trying to do is provide data that supports that vision.”

This post has been updated with information from GLP to correct the percentage of households in poverty that includes at least one person who works but doesn’t earn enough money to lift the family out of poverty.

Lisa Hornung a native of Louisville and has worked in local media for more than 15 years as a writer and editor. Before that she worked as a writer, editor and photographer for community newspapers in Kansas, Ohio and Kentucky. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia, and after a 20-year career in journalism, she obtained a master’s degree in history from Eastern Kentucky University in 2016.


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