New Jersey Health Initiatives - A Better State of Health
A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Program
Community Forum on Modern Day Poverty

The YMCA of Trenton, was excited to participate in New Jersey’s public television network’s community forum for NJTV In Your Neighborhood: Trenton, where four panelists joined with community members to discuss the challenges of modern-day poverty and the strategies that can be used to address inequality in New Jersey. NTJV news correspondent Michael Hill moderated the forum, and the panelists included

  • Demelza Baer, Esq., Senior Counsel and Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative, NJ Institute for Social Justice;
  • Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director, Anti-Poverty Network of NJ;
  • Frank Cirillo, Executive Director, Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness; and
  • Samuel Frisby, CEO of the Trenton YMCA and Freeholder of Mercer County.

These leaders in their respective fields shared their expertise and reported statistics to demonstrate the significant issues surrounding modern-day poverty, such as:

  • Based on federal poverty guidelines, the poverty rate in Trenton, NJ is 28%, which is nearly double the national average of 15%.
  • 33.6% percent of Trenton households live at 200% below the poverty line.
  • New Jersey ranks 41st out of 50 U.S. states in terms of racial disparities income inequality.

Beyond painting the picture of the current status of poverty and inequality, the forum discussed some misconceptions and myths surrounding poverty, and changes that can be made to combat racism and classism in structural and systems policies that cultivate inequality. Solutions such as increasing the minimum wage, implementing tax fairness policies – expanding earned income and child care tax credits are two examples – and strengthening early childhood education programs were all discussed.

All of the community members in attendance were invited to share their own questions and personal experiences with the forum. Individuals who have faced addiction, homelessness, and incarceration told powerful stories of overcoming hardship and provided key insights into living through poverty. Also in the audience were Trenton community leaders Gene Bouie, President of the Trenton Board of Education and Kimme Carlos, Executive Director of the Urban Mental Health Alliance. Throughout the evening, the room was abuzz with the energy of authentic dialogue on how collectively, we can form solutions that are long overdue. Reach out to the YMCA of Trenton and the other Live Healthy Trenton partners to learn more and collaborate in working toward better health for our community.

See the broadcast of the forum here:

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Alex Phillips
AmeriCorps VISTA, Trenton YMCA