FSU College of Social Work looks to end poverty

The FSU College of Social Work hosted a panel on Friday in an effort to find solutions to eradicate poverty in the local community.
Photo Submitted by Nathan Vinson

The FSU College of Social Work hosted a panel on the impact of poverty and community resources on Friday.

Tallahassee community leaders came together to discuss solutions to the issue of poverty in the city and the surrounding community. The panel consisted of: Tim Center, CEO of Capital Area Community Action Agency; Monique Ellsworth, executive director of CESC, which operates The Kearney Center; Freddy Branham, executive director of ECHO Outreach Ministries; Deborah Lloyd, executive director of Good News Outreach; and Tyler Shannon, case manager, FSU Dean of Students Department.

The panel was moderated and organized by Carol Edwards and Tomi Gregory, who are professors in the College of Social Work. Students, faculty and members of the community were in attendance, interested in the growing issue that continues to plague the area.

With the exception of Shannon, every panelist represented a local non-profit organization or agency committed to community involvement.

Branham and Lloyd work with faith-based organizations, which could be seen as an issue because of the potential for pushback based on orientations and changes that may not align with the values of the organization.

Lloyd and Branham denounced this thought, with Branham emphasizing that he is looking to help, rather than judge.

“My identity is as a white guy, a husband, a dad, an executive director — I wear a lot of different hats at any given time,” Branham said. “I’m a Christian too, but I’ll take off those hats when it’s time to relate to somebody because I want to walk alongside of them.”

With the poverty being defined in a myriad ways, each agency tends to specifically target certain groups in their community efforts. For Lloyd, her efforts are geared toward those who hover around the poverty line.

“Our resources in relation to our food pantry are any individuals who are getting SNAP, SSI, Medicaid and Medicare,” Lloyd said. “They’re probably just a little under or a little above the poverty level. Again, that’s the working poor.”

In October, the Florida Chamber of Commerce revealed that 32304 is the ZIP code with the highest concentration of poverty in the state of Florida; This area spans the city’s south side to the northwest tip of Tallahassee.

Although this kind of epidemic cannot be changed overnight, Ellsworth assured attendees that local legislators are already working toward eradicating the problem.

“What I can say about Tallahassee is that there are some really great conversations that are being had on a higher level,” Ellsworth said. “Just Wednesday night, we got an email from County Commissioner (Bill) Proctor, who is leading a conversation on the ZIP code 32304.”

The panel fielded questions about current processes, next steps and how they are able to get involved in the fight against poverty. Sophomore social work major Da’Ishah Collie appreciated the information presented by the panelists, and looks forward to further exploring a career in social work.

“I’m the treasurer of the W.E.B. DuBois society, and we’ve done a few community service projects at the Kearney Center. To know that one of the executive directors would be a panelist sparked my interest in coming,” Collie said. “This is my first year in the social work program, so I’m very interested in helping with the issue of poverty and continuing to grow within my major.”