In February of 2004, some 225 citizens from Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties convened in Traverse City to "create a response to poverty in our midst." Analyzing data and defining priorities, this group identified six issues for further study and action:
- Jobs and Economy
- Education and Training
- Affordable Housing
- Health Care
- Social Attitudes
- Early Childhood Development
These issues became working groups organized under the "Traverse Bay Poverty Reduction Initiative" (PRI). With a goal of "reducing poverty in our region by 25 percent by 2010," PRI seeks to link and support regional activities related to poverty, not to duplicate existing programs. Our activities are based on these guiding principles:
- POVERTY is present here.
- Poverty is EXPENSIVE for the community.
- LOCAL understanding provides local solutions.
- People can EXIT with a helping hand.
- Regional RESOURCES and COLLABORATION exist to do the job.
In 2008-09, PRI conducted a strategic planning process to bring focus to our activities. To more effectively address the six issues (see above) and provide personal support to those in poverty, PRI has reorganized its efforts around five "Strategic Directions:"
PRI initiatives have included:
- Bringing national speakers to the area on topics related to poverty, including Dr. Ruby Payne, Dr. Donna Beegle, Bill Millett, and Fred Keller;
- Hosting "Opportunity Conferences" for people in poverty with Dr. Donna Beegle, plus follow-up Neighborhood Meetings to provide ongoing support;
- Linking people in poverty with personal "Navigators" to help them access resources and improve their lives;
- Hosting twice-a-year "Saturday Special" free educational workshops for people in poverty;
- Providing "Poverty Simulations" to help educate groups and organizations about issues related to poverty;
- Conducting surveys and focus groups to learn more about poverty in our region;
Supporting mentoring programs across northwest Michigan.
In 2011-14, PRI summarized its work and focused its mission:
"Bringing the power of our collective knowledge and energy together to prevent and reduce poverty by Inspiring, Advocating, and Connecting through convening and incubation."
Networks Northwest always proves to be a valued resource for our local government planning efforts. No organization does a better job of convening partners, promoting collaboration, and reporting on the data than does Networks NorthwestTy Wessell, Leelanau County Commissioner