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Oldest Suburbs Fight Poverty Shift - Minus Old Money

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September 24, 2013

NEW YORK - The nation's oldest cities also have the oldest, aging, suburbs; but as more poor families move to suburbia, experts say they lack one big weapon to fight poverty: old money. According to Alan Berube, senior fellow and deputy director of the Brookings Metropolitan Poverty Program, the number of poor people in the city proper was basically flat over the past decade, while New York's suburbs saw a tenfold increase.

"There's not the philanthropic backstop in suburbs that you have in a lot of big cities that are home to big old foundations that supplement public dollars," he pointed out.

Berube said poverty cannot be tackled one town at a time, and that the solution requires counties working together with foundations and even big cities to attack the problem at scale.

Jennifer Rojas, vice president for grants and operations at the Rauch Foundation, said her group has been working to send out the message to bigger foundations that Long Island has deep pockets of poverty.

"I think it's starting to shift," she said. "The bigger national foundations that maybe have traditionally focused on big cities realize the demographic shifts and the challenges out here; but it does take a lot of time to educate people about the need."

At Molloy College, coordinator for Family Support Long Island Angela Zimmerman said she agrees that more "bottom-up" solutions are needed that provide incentives to state and local government, because many anti-poverty programs are geared to cities and need to be re-configured to address the suburban shift in poverty.

"The author was right on that as we approach the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty, we really need to look at how those federal infrastructures and how those infrastructures look at communities, urban and suburban," Zimmerman said.

Jennifer Rojas said the foundation landscape is always changing and Long Island needs to think ahead, because one major funder will, by design, exit soon.

"The Hagedorn Foundation, which is a good partner of ours, has done tremendous funding in the social-service nonprofit world," she said. "They are (in) a spend-down, so in four more years they go away, so that's going to be a huge hole on Long Island."

More information is at

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY