Community Action Network advocates to help those in poverty
“Because of where they are, their voices aren’t always heard. So we have to be those voices. We have to speak out,” said Kelly Knepp with the West Central Missouri Community Action Agency.
Being that voice is what leaders of community action agencies from across Missouri are doing while at the State Capitol Tuesday.
"We want to talk about workforce development programs, and what we can do in rural counties to help people get employment and work with the small businesses - the mom and pop businesses instead of the big businesses, because that's what we find the most in our rural counties," added Lea Ann Gatzemeyer.
"Rural poverty is unique. In and of itself," said Dawna Fogharty, Executive Director of Missouri Community Action Network.
According to Missouri CAN, some of the biggest issues facing people in rural poverty are access to reliable transportation, lack of job opportunities, and lack of access to fresh, affordable food.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows nearly all of the counties in the Ozarks have a poverty rate of at least 10% or more. Christian County is the only count in the Ozarks less than 10%...but still at 9.9%.
Missouri CAN wants to bring these poverty rates down. So, leaders from community action agencies across the state are meeting with their own local lawmakers.
"They're going to be talking to their legislators about possible solutions in any of those areas that are affecting the families that they serve," Fogarty added.
This is something the Community Action Network does every year. Because the legislature has to focus on a lot of different topics every year, there isn't enough time in one session to get everything accomplished.
But, they say their main goal is to help those living in poverty get back on their own two feet.
“Sometimes it takes a year or two. Sometimes it takes three years. But that is our goal with every family that we serve to be able to get them to a better place,” Fogarty said.