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Report: Rochester Fifth Poorest City Among Country's Top 75

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Rochester: Report: Rochester Fifth Poorest City Among Country's Top 75
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When you stroll through the Northeast Rochester neighborhood George Moses grew up and still lives in today, he'll remind you of what once was.

"I remember the families that stayed in these homes. They were beautiful homes," he said, looking at two now empty, grass-covered lots.

Moses said the homes he remembers there along North Goodman Street quickly deteriorated and were eventually torn down. It's not an uncommon site in that section of Rochester, one of the poorest in the city, the county and the country.

Moses, who is also head of his neighborhood group NEAD, the North East Area Development, was asked to talk about his neighborhood as the Rochester Community Foundation released its stark report Monday about the rate of poverty in our region.

"It is far deeper than you think, much worse then you and a cancer on our community's soul," explained Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of the Community Foundation.

The report found that Rochester is the fifth poorest city among the nation's 75 largest metro areas - behind only Detroit, Hartford, Cleveland and Dayton. It's second poorest, among similar-sized cities.

There are 161,000 people living below the federal poverty level in the nine-county region. Most of them actually live outside the city, but Rochester has the highest concentration of poor.

"If you look at outcomes, educational outcomes, health outcomes, employment outcomes for low-income people across the region, poverty is a problem but it is less of a problem in the areas where it's not concentrated. If you look at the data on low-income kids in the Brighton Schools for instance, or in any of the suburban districts, they do decidedly better because they are not educated in concentration of poverty," explained Bryan Hetherington, Empire Justice Center counsel.

What kind of concentration are we talking about? The Community Foundation found that nearly half, 46 percent, of children in city of Rochester, are poor.

"We are convinced, completely convinced, that getting a solid education is a way to reduce the effects of poverty. We're focused on that. We don't want to get distracted by the weight of what we have to do. We acknowledge the weight of it, but the superintendent has always said, we can't do it alone," said Rochester City School District Sr. Director of Operations, Jerome Underwood.

"I believe the first order of business is to help people become aware of something they have somewhat complicity ignored," said Leonard. "We need to talk about things that may include uncomfortable questions like affordable housing in the suburbs or rural areas. We need to talk about family supports that allow people to live while they're getting their education and getting their jobs. We need to talk about jobs, and talk about programs that actually deliver jobs."

Moses, meanwhile, says money does flow through the city's poorest neighborhoods, but he said with such need, it's vital that those dollars are all very well spent.

"If it doesn't work, let's stop doing it. Let's put our money where it's going to show impact as judged by the people who live in this neighborhood."

The Community Foundation will host a public presentation of the report Monday, December 16 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the United Way of Greater Rochester on College Avenue. If you're interested in attending you can call (585) 341-4346.

VIEW THE REPORT

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