2020 is a year for vision and bold action, and A Better Chicago is poised to make our tenth year of fighting poverty in our city the most impactful one yet. We are particularly encouraged that Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her administration have prioritized this complex, critical issue.
Poverty in Chicago is everyone’s problem. According to recent census data, 1 in 10 Chicago residents are living in extreme poverty, meaning their income is 50 percent below the federal poverty line. 1 in 4 kids in our city are living in poverty. In our schools, 76 percent of Chicago Public School (CPS) students are receiving free or subsidized meals and 16,000 students are homeless. How can we hope to call ourselves a world-class city when so many of our citizens are barely making ends meet? Our youth deserve better and they can’t wait any longer for us to act.
Over the past decade, we have invested nearly $40 million in dozens of local organizations to fuel their growth and empower them to serve more than 37,000 low-income youth from cradle to career annually. Our grantees are some of the most high-impact, high-potential nonprofits in the city. With the support of more than 2,000 donors and the partnership of business leaders, policymakers, and fellow nonprofits and philanthropic organizations, we’ve made significant progress. However, there is a long way to go.
This week’s Solutions Toward Ending Poverty (STEP) Summit was the first step in mobilizing leaders across sectors to work together to eliminate poverty in this generation. As a member of the Summit’s advisory committee, I’ve seen firsthand how energized our city’s leaders are to tackle intergenerational poverty head on.
The Mayor’s strategy to comprehensively tackle poverty in Chicago is founded on four pillars that are grounded in creating equitable, inclusive economic growth:
- Reducing the expenses and costs of being poor by approaching policymaking through a racial equity lens
- Increasing quality jobs and boosting income levels in underserved communities
- Improving community health and reducing racial life expectancy disparities
- Fostering wealth building at the individual, family and community levels
Many of these goals can’t be achieved without ensuring that our city’s youth have the support they need to prosper as adults and become the leaders of the future. This work can’t be done by one organization or person alone, and A Better Chicago is ready to collaborate in new and courageous ways to break the cycle of poverty for this generation and generations to come. Let’s build a Chicago where every child can thrive.