Oklahmo City Hopes to Move Working Poor out of Poverty

By Sutter, Jane | Nation's Cities Weekly, August 30, 1999 | Go to article overview

Oklahmo City Hopes to Move Working Poor out of Poverty


Sutter, Jane, Nation's Cities Weekly


Twenty-one (21) city, business and community leaders from the City of Oklahoma City (OKC) met at Oklahoma City Community College on August 6, 1999 to begin developing strategies to reduce the number of Oklahoma City residents who work but continue to live in poverty. The all day retreat was part of the technical assistance that Oklahoma City receives through the National League of Cities (NLC) Workforce Development for Poverty Reduction Project.

The three-year NLC project focuses on building the capacity of city officials and other key leaders to help local residents move from poverty to living wage jobs through improved workforce development strategies. NLC is providing technical assistance on workforce development to OKC and four other cities: Dayton, Ohio; Flint Michigan; Pasadena and Modesto, California

Nearly one-fourth of all children in Oklahoma live in poverty. In more than three-fourths of the poor families with children, at least one adult works. Despite a tight labor market, these families cannot make ends meet. The barriers to keeping and finding living wage jobs that team members cited most often are substance abuse problems, transportation challenges and childcare demands. The federal poverty level for a four-person family is $16,700 a year.

The city's Office of Workforce Development is coordinating the city's participation in the NLC project. Earlier this year, Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphries appointed more than 20 city, business and community leaders from Central Oklahoma to participate in the process. The team includes representatives of city government, regional government, educational institutions, business and industry, social services, faith-based organizations and workforce development programs. Lenora Thompson, President, The Thompson Group, a management training and program development firm in Bala Cynwyd, PA serves as the NLC consultant to the team.

At the retreat the team adopted a "vision" statement to guide their strategic plan for the next two years. The "vision" commits the city team to "create a dynamic environment in Oklahoma City that empowers the working poor to overcome obstacles and acquire the necessary skills to become full participants in the changing job market and in the life of the community."

During the retreat, team members discussed several issues related to workforce development in Oklahoma City. Team members reviewed the current status of welfare recipients and former welfare recipients in the area, predictions of future job opportunities, and how the city could promote living wage jobs. …

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