You can’t always judge a book by its cover. In our culture, the term “inner city” conjures images of condemned buildings and dilapidated public housing units as we mentally label “inner-city” as “poor.” We also often associate the term “suburban” with “affluent,” as we imagine idyllic neighborhoods with large backyards and quality schools.
However, a recent Brookings Institute study shows that poverty is rising faster in America’s suburbs than in its urban core. And Atlanta is no exception. Metro Atlanta had the fourth highest suburban poverty growth rate in the United States between 2000 and 2010.
Although Atlanta city dwellers are still more likely to be in poverty than those in the suburbs, with the urban poverty rate at 26.2% and the urban poverty rate at 16%, poverty is growing in the suburbs at 14 times the speed of that in the city.
What is even more telling is when we look at the sheer numbers of individuals living in poverty. 886,390 people in poverty live in the suburbs while only 246,229 live in the city, meaning that 78% of metro Atlanta’s poor lives in the suburbs. Although this statistic can largely be attributed to the fact that the Atlanta suburbs carry a much greater population than the urban core, we should still realize how this should impact policies for helping the poor in the area as social and economic programs are traditionally concentrated in the city.
To make matters even more troubling, the implications of living in suburbia hit Atlanta’s poor particularly hard as transportation from the outskirts of the city into the central business district can be extremely time consuming, if not impossible, without a car. This lack of mobility in the suburbs greatly limits accessibility to the safety-net services and job opportunities that the city offers.
Fortunately, cities across America that also faced this suburban poverty challenge offer a number of innovative solutions to Atlanta’s problem. Houston created 60 neighborhood centers throughout the metro region to reach both inner-city and suburban neighborhoods. The Seattle area developed a Road Map Project that focuses on closing achievement gaps in suburban schools. And in Chicago, suburban communities decided to look past their town borders and created regional initiatives that focused on shared success rather than competing with each other for resources.
If you feel passionate about alleviating suburban poverty in Atlanta, you can take action in a variety of ways. Raise awareness in your community by bringing up the topic at school board meetings, a chamber of commerce meeting, or even your Facebook page. Tell influential leaders how you feel. Visit your representatives in the Georgia State Capitol Building. If that seems too intimidating, express your beliefs to your faith-based leader or explain the problem to a local business owner. These people are more influential than you may realize. Finally, share your opinion with the media by contacting your local television station, writing a letter to the editor, or even by posting a blog article :).
Visit http://confrontingsuburbanpoverty.org/action-toolkit/ for more information on how to make a difference!
Football and God rarely clash in the South. But the neighborhoods surrounding the future $1 billion new Falcons' stadium may be forced to lose two of its historic churches due to the new stadium, scheduled to open in 2017.
Local officials claim that that the new stadium will revitalize the western portion of downtown that struggles with unrelenting crime, high unemployment, and poor school performance. Per The New York Times,
"politicians are also trying to portray the new stadium as a way to help redefine the beleaguered western flank of downtown, a civic jewel that would re-energize the core of a city that has long considered itself the glittering capital city of the South."
The new stadium comes with a $45 million fund dedicated to benefit the surrounding communities of English Avenue, Vine City and Castleberry Hill.
But neighborhood residents that attend Friendship Baptist Church and Mount Vernon Baptist Church, the two churches in the way of the stadium's development, do not agree with the city's priorities. After all, these churches offer more than a place of worship. Friendship Baptist is one of the most historically important black churches in the region. It was established in 1862, in the days after the Civil War, as the first independent African-American Baptist congregation in Atlanta.
Regardless, "We want what the Buckhead kids have," said Andrew A. Motley, pastor of Lindsay Street Baptist Church in the English Avenue community.
"Resources. Our children's needs are no less. They don't have options for resources. We need recreational facilities and green space. All they have are the drug deals and the users, the appearance of glamour from the drug dealers (and) police not as friends but as occupiers. We know the stadium will be built, but it is a luxury among all the needs around us."
The stadium will be both privately and publicly funded. Although Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons, will cover $800 million of the stadium cost, the city will likely provide $200-300 million through city-issued bonds and revenue from the future hotel-motel tax.
If the public is going to fund this stadium, it should offer more than a flashy arena that will likely be used for fewer than 10 NFL games a year. Legislators should ensure that the future neighbors of the stadium, who will likely sacrifice a part of their history and identity in the loss of two of their churches, should benefit from the new stadium. There are already too many instances of promised revitalization from politicians that ultimately only bring commercial activity benefiting the larger city while ignoring the most dire needs of the neighborhood.
"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
We Atlanta area residents have a lot in common. Though it is often easier to see the differences in the challenges that we all face, we all want our community to thrive.