The high level of rural poverty in NYS is mostly "hidden," according to the Rural Visions Project. Structural problems, including lack of access to public transportation, affordable housing, daycare, healthcare, and internet prevent many otherwise capable people from obtaining quality jobs, and from obtaining the services that might enable them to move out of their current circumstances.
Compounding this challenge, cultural values of independence and self-reliance often exacerbate the stigma associated with asking for help. The lack of relevant education programs in rural areas may perpetuate poverty.
The project offered several recommendations for combating poverty through a variety of housing, transportation, health, and community capacity initiatives.
Education occupies a central role in both preventing and alleviating poverty. Education must both prepare citizens for quality jobs, and must promote general awareness of poverty as a rural issue. Economic development may also be enhanced through increased availability of, and access to, living wage jobs. In addition, understanding the social dynamics of rural poverty may be a step in helping people help themselves.
Opportunities for achieving these goals may include:
- Develop and provide access to infrastructure (public transportation, housing, internet)
- Increase local control of the role of schools and faith-based institutions in combating poverty
- Increase support and services for working poor and working parents
- Provide opportunities for youth
- Provide economic development based on living wage employment
- Increase cooperation, collaboration, and resource sharing between agencies
- Provide opportunities for information sharing among rural poor
The nature of rural poverty changes as rural demographics change. Current trends affecting poverty include non-traditional nature of family structures; the "brain drain" and out-migration of educated youth; an increasing percentage of senior citizens, and transient and migrant workers in rural communities.
The challenges to combating rural poverty include:
- A disconnect between jobs, transportation, and housing
- A lack of access to health care of all types
- An apparent "cycle of poverty," with generational transfer
- The stigma and general lack of awareness prevent people from obtaining assistance
- Competition between programs for limited funding