published Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Local task force aims to cut Chattanooga's poverty

Perrin Lance
Perrin Lance
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

There's no simple answer for reducing poverty.

Linda Richards would know. She raised four sons on one income and is still raising her two granddaughters in East Lake. That's why she wants to devote her spare time to helping other single moms in need and act as a catalyst to get them already existing resources in the community.

Richards was one of nearly two dozen people who joined a local nonprofit advocacy group to form a task force to reduce poverty in the Scenic City by 25 percent in the next five years.

Led by Perrin Lance, president of Chattanooga Organized for Action, the group -- Poverty Free Chattanooga -- cited statistics that 27 percent of city residents live below the poverty line -- nearly double the national average.

That's why the group of educators, single mothers and local advocates plan to find solutions by focusing on education, health, housing, employment, transportation and economic development needs across the city.

"What's the priority in Chattanooga? Who is the priority?" asked Lance. "Can we become a progressive city of the South and [examine] every innovative idea other cities are using and see what works here?"

Some of the resources needed already exist, but folks just don't know about their options, said Cynthia Long, director of Educational Opportunity Center, a federally funded program through the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

"They don't know where to get the help or know that college is even an option for them," she said. "If you want to change your life and get a better job and career we'll help you do that all along the way."

The next step will be writing a comprehensive plan to find practical and specific ways to tackle poverty that will be ready by Jan. 1, 2015, organizers said.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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