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MN Poverty Rate Falls, but 1 in 10 Still Struggles

PHOTO: Dave Senjem (R-Rochester). Courtesy of Minnesota Senate
PHOTO: Dave Senjem (R-Rochester). Courtesy of Minnesota Senate
September 17, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Stakeholders in Minnesota's fight against poverty are gathering this week to review their successes and put together strategies for the challenges that remain. The 2012 Minnesota Community Action Partnership Conference begins Wednesday in Rochester with an address from state Senate majority leader Dave Senjem, who says he's been a supporter of the Community Action Programs (CAP) for decades.

"There are certainly individuals in our society that do need a little boost, and programs like this are enormously important to people. And in the end, we want to wean people off poverty, but certainly when they're in the midst of it we need to be as supportive as we can."

New census figures show that in 2011 in Minnesota, household income edged up and the percentage of people with health insurance expanded. The poverty rate in the state also has fallen, but it's still at about 10 percent.

Senjem says since the legislative session that begins in January is a budget year, lawmakers may have a chance to reinforce some programs for those in poverty, although he believes the main solution is economic improvement.

"From the standpoint of the way we think, most often, it's that we've got to get the Minnesota economy going again. We've got to get some job growth in this state, from the standpoint of giving people an opportunity for work. It's the best way out of poverty."

Linda Bradford, program director for the Olmsted Community Action Program, says the reason they and other CAPs around the state are able to deal with poverty effectively is because they're able to change along with the changing needs of each community, and they collaborate with other service providers.

Bradford cites the example of a local apartment building with moderate-income units, which was closed down to be repurposed.

"And all the people were evicted because they were going to make it into college dorms, and the Homeless Response Team met together, and we developed a plan. And we put together resources for these families, and we had a one-stop shop for the families to come and get the resources, and answer questions and get them hooked up."

Minnesota Community Action Partnership is the state's largest anti-poverty network, with 27 agencies serving residents in all corners of the state.

More information is at www.mncaa.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN