City of Dubuque paying for study to address rising poverty levels

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - The City of Dubuque has seen an increase in people living in poverty over the past few years, and it's hoping to find solutions to reverse the trend. A nonprofit that works to end generational poverty says many barriers need to be eliminated to address the issue.

The Julien Dubuque Bridge. (Aaron Scheinblum, KCRG)

Caprice Jones, the founder of a new nonprofit, the Fountain of Youth, is always working to improve his programs and reach more people who are living in poverty. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, he has firsthand experience.

"I grew up in generational poverty so I know what it takes for a person to actually climb out," he said.

He believes people face many barriers to getting out of poverty, like personal mindsets.

"When individuals grow up in poverty, they believe that that's just what life is going to be like for them, and that's all they're ever going to be able to achieve," he explained.

However, he said there are also systemic barriers like a lack of affordable childcare, poor housing, and a workforce that's left them behind.

Jones said he believes CEOs of companies need the training to address their biases against poor people.

"They have to be educated to believe that this is a necessary good for us to give individuals that we normally wouldn't give an individual this opportunity to have this opportunity," Jones said.

The city of Dubuque wants to learn more about those barriers. It hopes a $43,000 study will answer many of its questions.

Laura Carstens, Planning Services Manager for the city, said those questions are, "what exactly poverty looks like in our community. What are the factors? People are in poverty, what are their circumstances? What are the things we're doing to help people in poverty?"

According to the US Census, 13.2 percent of Dubuque's population lived below poverty levels in 2012. The number increased to 16.8 in 2016 and dropped slightly to 16.3 percent in 2017.

Carstens said the city hasn't responded sooner because it has many priorities and only so much funding.

"Would I have liked to start three years ago? Yeah. But I'm happy to start now. I'm glad we're funded and we're getting it underway and the council's made it a priority," she said.

Caprice hopes the city will actually act on what it learns because he knows firsthand there's a lot of work to be done.

"Being open and willing to learning and fixing the issues. And being willing to suffer through the process," he said are his hopes for the city's response.