Poverty Reduction Workshops Wrap Up; Projects To Be Prioritized

An important piece of the puzzle to potentially curtail poverty in Jamestown has been completed.

Last week, the fifth and final community improvement workshop was held with 18 local agencies as part of the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative program, also known as ESPRI.

ESPRI was first introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s during his State of the State address last year. Jamestown was one of 16 cities in the state selected to participate in the poverty reduction program. As part of the 2016-17 state budget, the city will received $1 million in state funding for the poverty reduction initiative.

Since April, the 18 agencies have been participating in the workshops, which they were encouraged to do if they were interested in applying for ESPRI funding in the future. Each workshop was interactive, with each agency sharing ideas and possible theories of change for poverty-focused initiatives.

The 18 agencies that participated included Jamestown Community Learning Council; the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County; Legal Assistance of Western New York; Salvation Army; Winifred Crawford Dibert Boys & Girls Club of Jamestown; YWCA; Community Helping Hands; Chautauqua Striders; YMCA; UCAN City Mission; Catholic Charities; Housing Options Made Easy; Family Services of the Chautauqua Region; Jamestown Community College; The Resource Center; Chautauqua Works; Citizen’s Opportunity for Development & Equality Inc.; James Prendergast Library; and Chautauqua Alcohol & Substance Abuse Council.

Tory Irgang, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County executive director, said during the last community improvement workshop each agency highlighted their project idea.

“In some cases they shared not so much about being a lead in the project, but about collaborating with another organization. They were specific in some cases and in others spoke generally about working with another organization,” Irgang said. “It was neat because a lot of connections were made in the room. Some connections were already made during the workshops. So more connections were made, and you can see how people are trying to be creative on working together.”

Irgang said around 70 people attended the final community improvement workshop meeting, which included agency members, ESPRI task force members and members of the grassroots advisory committee.

“We had a really full room,” Irgang said.

The next step in the ESPRI process will now be for ESPRI task force members to prioritize project ideas to meet community needs. Irgang said the task force will use information from the community improvement workshops, from the community needs assessment that was created by the Rochester-based consulting firm Center for Governmental Research and the local services inventory, which was collected in March during a meeting at UPMC Chautauqua WCA.

The local services inventory meeting was led by Kate Ebersole, health care facilitator, who asked health care and community professionals to list their agency, the services they provide and the populations they serve. Ebersole also lead the community improvement workshops.

The community needs assessment was presented last month by Peter Nabozny, CGR associate. The community needs assessment included demographic data that included information about the city’s poverty and employment levels.

“All these things will go together to help the task force understand how to set priorities for ESPRI funding,” Irgang said.

The ESPRI task force will be meeting Wednesday to start the process of prioritizing community needs to possibly fight community poverty. The local ESPRI task force, which was created by the United Way of Southern Chautauqua County, who is the administrator of Jamestown’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative program, has been meeting since November to develop a plan for solutions to help those living in poverty in Jamestown.

The task force consists of representatives from city, county and state government; local school district and educational organizations; nonprofit and faith-based community organizations; local businesses who employee local people; workforce service entities; economic development organizations; public safety officials; and health services providers.

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