National Poverty Expert in Town

By Linda Ong |

Published 02/11 2014 06:39PM

Updated 02/11 2014 06:54PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Poverty in Springfield is a growing problem.

"We want to step in now and look at this," said Susie Turner, President of the Junior League of Springfield. "Over half the children in Springfield that are in school are living in poverty. That's an enormous number."

Many of the people who live in poverty in Springfield believe the problem is much bigger.

Forty-nine-year-old Brian Johnson said he has been fighting poverty on and off throughout his life, and has been homeless for almost 10 months.

"The numbers don't match up with what I'm seeing," said Johnson. "I'm sure they give a close estimate. The problem is worse than people think. Some people just fall off the grid and stay off the grid."

To address this issue, leaders of local organizations, like Turner, have teamed up to bring national poverty expert Dr. Ruby Payne to Springfield.

"Her wealth of information to bring to us is amazing," said Turner.
According to the 2013 Community Focus Report, poverty is the number one red flag theme in Springfield and Greene County. Poverty spreads from youth to adults and poses both social and economic challenges for the community. Local organizations hope to walk away with new ideas to restrategize the community's plan to fight poverty.

"The outcome we are looking for out of her three-day engagement here in Springfield is to develop an action plan for our community," said Turner.  "And looking that over a three-year, 10-year, 20-year cycle so really do have a long focus in how to address this."

Johnson said he believes a revamped plan will help people like him, who are homeless.

"I see everybody else is homeless-- have more options of what they can do," he said.

Johnson said long-term support for those in need would be helpful.

"Give a guy a fish he'll eat for a day," he said. "If you teach him to fish, he'll be able to eat for a lifetime.

Susie Turner said she and other local organizations are surprised by the community's response and interest in Dr. Payne's visit. She said more than 1,600 people have bought tickets to attend Wednesday night's dinner and lecture.    Wednesday's events include a highly-anticipated lecture and a news conference. Turner said the real work of strategizing a new plan and putting it into action will begin at the end of Dr. Payne's visit.

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