Public forum set on St. John poverty

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 17, 2006


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — St. John United Way and Entergy, along with Governor Kathleen Blanco’s Solutions to Poverty Network, will host a public forum on April 19 to discuss solutions to poverty in St. John Parish, actions to these problems and follow-up meetings to execute the &#8220Plan of Action.”

St. John United Way Executive Director Dean Torres said poverty is a community problem.

&#8220This effort fits in perfectly with out strong families and successful children initiatives,” Torres said. &#8220We share the Governor’s belief that the key to breaking the cycle of poverty is rooted in local minds and resources. This coalition will help us to develop systemic solutions tailored to our community’s specific needs.”

According to Entergy’s local Customer Service Manager, Tammy Frank, this effort supports Entergy’s commitment to addressing the poverty situation that affects not only St. John Parish, but the entire state.

&#8220I see this as a logical extension to Entergy’s other initiatives,” said Frank, &#8220such as support for the LIHEAP reform, legislation to create an Energy Efficiency Fund, growth of the Helping Hands fund and assistance with pre-k programs.”

According to information provided by Torres, Louisiana’s poverty rate is 16.9 percent, which ranks among the highest in the United States.

&#8220In 2003, the number of families living in poverty in Louisiana was 181,000,” Torres stated. &#8220The latest figures available for St. John Parish show that 16.7 percent

of the population and 13.9 percent of families are living in poverty. Of that total population, 21.7 percent of those under the age of 18 and 17.8 percent of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.”

According to Torres, the effort to help end poverty in St. John Parish began in November 2004, when 25 community leaders from St. John Parish came together with Blanco’s office to conduct a local &#8220Conversation on Poverty.”

The meeting was originally to meet on Aug. 31, 2005, but due to Katrina it has been rescheduled. The meeting will take place at Louisiana Technical College River Parishes Campus located at 181 Regala Park in Reserve at 12:30 p.m. For additional information contact Dean Torres at (985) 651-9118.