When Franklin & Marshall College released a report two years ago painting a stark contrast between the city’s thriving downtown and its poverty-stricken Southeast neighborhoods, it prompted Mayor Rick Gray to appoint a commission to combat poverty. And it prompted LNP reporter Jeff Hawkes to start asking some tough questions. His stories over the past year have created a rich context to better help readers understand the challenges facing the commission – and the city. “I wanted to remind people that the city’s Southeast has the deepest concentration of poverty in the county,” Hawkes says, noting that 90 percent of children in that sector are receiving free and reduced school lunches.
It’s not enough to understand the problem, he says. We also need to know why it exists.
Hawkes documented how past policies – from segregation to failed urban renewal efforts that razed entire neighborhoods to erect public housing – contributed to the decline of the city’s Southeast. He also traveled to Richmond, Virginia, to see how that city’s anti-poverty initiatives might offer valuable lessons for Lancaster.
And when the mayor’s commission released its report at the end of 2016, Hawkes criticized its lack of vision. The city is good at rescuing people from the quicksand of poverty, he says. But the quicksand is still there.
“What are you accomplishing if the goal is not getting rid of the quicksand?” he asks.
Can Lancaster get rid of the quicksand? Can we break up the concentration of poverty, offer housing diversity outside the city and find solutions for high-poverty schools? Yes, Hawkes believes.
Read the pages of LNP, and stay tuned.
Contact Jeff and share your thoughts. firstname.lastname@example.org