I have lived in Erie now for 28 years. I have always been touched by how much care and compassion Erie people demonstrate towards others in need. It would not surprise me if that is one the reasons why there are so many nonprofit organizations in Erie, PA. Once a need is identified, people in Erie step up to address it.
Unfortunately, Erie has a well-documented poverty problem. There have been countless studies, both new and old, documenting this fact. Private and public organizations, churches, funders, and community groups continue to address this issue. And yet, it seems as if no one is “moving the needle” of Erie’s poverty problem.
I don’t propose to have a miraculous answer to reverse Erie’s poverty trend. I wish I did. But I do know something that will not help Erie’s poverty problem; the continued loss of funding to nonprofit organizations that directly work towards reducing poverty.
Could things be better in our community? Yes. But, could things be worse? Absolutely! Where would Erie be if we didn’t have nonprofit organizations dedicated to addressing the causes and symptoms of poverty?
* There were no food pantries available? By far, most of the food pantries in the area, even those associated with churches, are part of a nonprofit organization.
* There were no shelters for the homeless or victims of domestic abuse? Where would these individuals go?
* There were no after-school programs? Even with private, public or charter schools, many students need enhanced support to be successful in school.
* There were no early learning centers? I suspect many individuals would not be able to go to work because they would have to be home caring for their children.
* There no programs to assist senior citizens with prescriptions or transportations or utilities?
* There no services to the many refugees who make Erie their home? Who would help them adapt to this country?
The list of questions goes on.
Yes, there is poverty in Erie. But, the strong nonprofit sector that is currently in place serves as a safety net to keep it from getting worse. Poverty is a very complicated societal problem and it requires multi-year solutions and adequate resources. Erie’s vibrant nonprofit agencies have a first-hand role in the fight against poverty and they are needed now more than ever. Without them, Erie would have a larger poverty problem.
We need your support on this issue. Please call your local government officials and your local funders. Ask them to keep the existing funding in place for nonprofit organizations. Your voice can make a difference.