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March 8, 2014

New group launches discussion on local poverty

NEWBURYPORT — Poverty exists in the local Greater Newburyport. It isn’t going away easily and it isn’t solved through just giving charity.

That’s the message a group of local social service professionals shared during a recent forum hosted by Newburyport’s new discussion group, Local Poverty Matters.

Poverty is more than a shortage of income, the panelists said, it’s an inability “to participate in activities of normal living, the inability to access important resources and it is perpetuated by social divisions that separate us.”

The discussion group was started by Michael Sandberg, co-president of Pennies for Poverty and past leader of Immigration Matters, a similar monthly discussion on immigration in America. It plans to host monthly forums that will examine how charity can both help and hurt people living in poverty.

Wednesday’s program, the first of the series, was attended by about 75 people, many of whom were also social service professionals.

They received a first-hand overview of poverty in the local area from keynote speaker Ingrid Cyros. Cyros, executive director of the Hugh Doyle Resource Center, located on Prince Place in Newburyport, informed the gathering that 6 percent of Newburyport residents live below the poverty line.

To put a face to this group, she described a population of single mothers without another adult present, elderly living on a fixed income and the disabled and sick who are assigned to a life of poverty through no fault of their own.

Cyros said that over the past 10 years the North Shore has seen a 20 percent rise in poverty spurred on by the uncertain job market and rising housing costs. This rate is “growing at a faster rate and with greater numbers than other communities,” she said.

Cyros was joined at the podium by a local resident who she said “carries great assets and shows amazing resourcefulness and tenacity.”

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