Nevada tackles poverty
By Cresent Hardy, Congressman (R-NV-CD4)
Dear Fellow Nevadans,
We need a new approach to alleviating poverty in America. Nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population is living below the poverty line. For many Nevadans, the recession is not just a memory – it is still very much a reality.
At the lowest points, Nevada’s unemployment rate was an astronomical 13.7 percent and the poverty rate reached 16.2 percent. The only thing more stark than this number is the fact that despite the improvement of the national unemployment rate, the national poverty rate has not budged in the last 4 years. Fortunately, there is a silver lining from the Silver State. Unlike the national figures on poverty, Nevada has seen poverty rates drop as the unemployment rate drops.
One of the most effective ways our state has been able to improve the lives of our most impoverished is through smart community involvement at the local level. Unlike so many of the federal approaches that operate as one-size-fits-all-solutions, community based solutions are tailored to their specific community, and in many cases, the conditions of each individual’s needs.
In my community there is an organization that not only has good ideas, but is also acting on those ideas to improve the situation. The HOPE for Prisoners Program, whose mission is to help ex-offenders reintegrate into society and find gainful employment, is a model for success. Jon Ponder, the leader of Hope for Prisoners brings together families, religious leaders, business leaders and law enforcement to break the vicious cycle that plagues our communities. The various community members act in selfless service, often using their own time and their own money to make a difference.
This program has graduated hundreds of individuals out of his program. One of those graduates has started his own successful small business, Love’s Barbershop. Not only is Love’s owner a contributing member of the community, Love’s Barbershop lifts up the entire community by creating jobs for other Nevada families.
While Hope has been operating for only five years, they have been able to help more than 1,000 people in Southern Nevada with only a 6 percent re-incarceration rate. Programs like Hope for Prisoners work. The numbers – and the survivors – speak for themselves.
While there is still much to do to address the poverty in our country, the federal government should be looking to our states for examples. States are not only the national laboratories of industry; they can be the laboratories of hope.