Jim Inglis, co-chair of ProsperUS, presents its first milestone report, as from left, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare CEO Janice Kaffer, Essex County Warden Gary McNamara, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald, Windsor-Essex Childrens Aid Society COO Terry Johnson and United Way of Windsor-Essex County CEO Lorraine Goddard listen, July 24, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

A big step forward for ProsperUS in Windsor-Essex

A groundbreaking initiative on fighting poverty in Windsor-Essex is poised for its next step.

The first milestone report for ProsperUS, a consortium of 45 agencies throughout the city and county with the objective of ending child poverty, was presented at a media event Wednesday morning at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare’s Emara Building. The first phase of the long-term process involved identifying areas of Windsor-Essex where poverty among young people was most prevalent. Now they are taking that information and putting it into action with the Cradle to Career Strategy, guiding young people in poverty through childhood, secondary education, college or university, and ultimately a career in an in-demand industry.

ProsperUS co-chairman Jim Inglis said he has lived in several areas of Canada, but he was never more impressed with the community spirit shown by Windsor-Essex. With the first milestone achieved, Inglis said they will now return to the community to move things forward.

“We will get representation from the residents, the people with lived experience, with the experienced stakeholders to make sure that whatever interventions we have in place for those communities, we are mindful of what’s going to work,” said Inglis.

Three key areas where outcomes for children and young people are in need of the most improvement were revealed in the report. Downtown Windsor, the Sandwich area of west Windsor, and the municipality of Leamington were those areas. The two Windsor zones, for example, reported those living below the poverty level for a family of four as being over half the population.

Ward 3 city Councillor Rino Bortolin, whose district covers downtown, called the information sobering but he has been aware of the issue for some time.

“That’s a staggering statistic,” said Bortolin. “We’ve been hearing about that for a few years since census data came out. Doing something about it, and getting everybody on the same page and actually doing something about it, is critical.”

The group of agencies includes school boards, health care systems, educational institutions, law enforcement, newcomer agencies, social assistance groups, and many others.

In the interest of pending action, a series of working groups will now be set up in the high-poverty zones. They will consist of representatives from the partner agencies, along with community activists and elected representatives, as well as families and children living in those areas.

The complete 60-page report, along with a listing of all community stakeholders involved and the methodology used to gather the information, is available on the official ProsperUS website.

Placards identify areas in Windsor-Essex where families in poverty tend to live, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor, July 24, 2019. Blackburn News file photo.