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Seeking the Gateways Out of Poverty, PA Catholic Conference on Initiative

There is an oft-repeated parable that goes something like this:

One day a group of villagers was working in the fields by a river.  Suddenly someone noticed a baby floating downstream. A woman rushed out and rescued the baby, brought it to shore and cared for it. During the next several days, more babies were found floating downstream, and dave and crossthe villagers rescued them as well. But before long there was a steady stream of babies floating towards them.

Soon the whole village was involved in the many tasks of rescue work: pulling these poor children out of the stream, ensuring they were properly fed, clothed, and housed, and integrating them into the life of the village.

Before long, however, the village became exhausted with all this rescue work. Some villagers suggested they go upstream to discover how all these babies were getting into the river in the first place. Had a mysterious illness stricken these poor children? Had the shoreline been made unsafe by an earthquake? Was some hateful person throwing them in deliberately? Was an even more exhausted village upstream abandoning them out of hopelessness?

“Don’t you see,” cried some, “if we find out how they’re getting in the river, we can stop the problem and no babies will drown? By going upstream we can eliminate the cause of the problem!” (Credit: Bread for the World)

One group of state legislators is similarly concerned about the “rescue work” being done in Pennsylvania to address the effects of poverty. The House Majority Policy Committee commissioned a study to identify barriers that low-income Pennsylvanians face when attempting to reach self-sufficiency. In April 2014, the committee released the preliminary findings of their Beyond Poverty report.

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House Majority Policy Committee Unveils Report from Statewide Initiative on Poverty- Gant Daily

HARRISBURG – Every region of Pennsylvania struggles with the effects of poverty; from the elderly couple living on a fixed income in Pittsburgh, to the single mother in Northumberland County struggling to raise her family, to the recent college graduate paying for student loans on an entry-level salary.

With these examples in mind, the House Majority Policy Committee sought input from numerous community groups, non-profit organizations and municipal officials, and gained perspective from tours and roundtable discussions conducted across the Commonwealth, as part of the initiative, “Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty.” Chairman Dave Reed (R-Indiana) and members of the committee have issued “Beyond Poverty,” preliminary findings from the initiative.

Designed to identify the barriers low-income Pennsylvanians face when attempting to reach self-sufficiency, the report shares the best principles in positively combatting poverty in the Commonwealth. The report also narrows the focus on the committee’s legislative and policy priorities moving forward.

“Government spends nearly a trillion dollars annually on programs to fight poverty, yet there are still 1.6 million Pennsylvanians struggling to make ends meet. It’s clearly time to reassess whether President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty was a success or not,” Reed said.

Since assessments have shown that poverty isn’t contained to one type of community, the committee worked to examine it in a wide variety of locations, including inner-city neighborhoods, suburbs and also in the state’s rural areas. The hearings, roundtable discussions and tours included testimony from more than 100 stakeholders in locations that included Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, the Poconos and Clearfield County.

“Poverty in our rural areas such as Clearfield County is very different than in our urban areas of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,” Reed said. “It shows a one-size-fits-all approach will not work in confronting this very serious problem.”



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Poverty Isn’t a Partisan Problem- Commonwealth Foundation


Here’s a sobering fact: 13.1 percent of Pennsylvanians live in poverty despite billions spent every year on the social safety net. Simply throwing more money at the problem won’t make it go away.


To address poverty at its roots, Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana County) and the Majority House Policy Committee released a new report called Beyond Poverty. Unlike many reports on chronic poverty, Beyond Poverty doesn’t offer policy solutions crafted in the halls of Harrisburg. Rather, the report identifies barriers to prosperity (or poverty traps) based on feedback from the poor themselves and those who serve them.


Another key difference is the bi-partisan approach. On the acknowledgements page you’ll notice a variety of organizations operating on both ends of the spectrum, from the Commonwealth Foundation, to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, to county agencies.


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Capitolwire: House GOP says more needs to be done to combat poverty, offers some ideas

By Chris Comisac
Bureau Chief

HARRISBURG (April 28) – Calling it the “closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new chapter,” House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Dave Reed, R-Indiana, on Monday announced the findings of a preliminary report about poverty in Pennsylvania.

Reed said that in 2014 “46 million Americans in poverty” of which 1.6 million are Pennsylvania residents “and spending $1 trillion annually” on anti-poverty programs “is unacceptable.”

However, instead of just assessing blame, he said the “Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty” initiative is focused on finding long-term solutions to poverty.

“To many people, the discussion on poverty in America never moves beyond the talking points of our major political parties,” Reed added. “I hope that with this initiative, we have started a conversation that moves beyond empty rhetoric and into a discussion on changes that will increase the effectiveness of our anti-poverty programs and improve lives across the Commonwealth.”


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Legislator Unveiling Report on PA Poverty- Pittsburgh Post Gazette

By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau


HARRISBURG — A Republican state representative on a mission to learn more about poverty in Pennsylvania will unveil some of his findings today.

Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, who chairs the GOP-controlled House Majority Policy Committee, will discuss his report at a Harrisburg homeless shelter.

Mr. Reed and his staff spent months researching the project. They visited the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank in August with several other legislators and heard from anti-hunger activists who made a number of suggestions.

The report identifies 13 barriers that can trap a person in poverty, such as lack of family support, not having affordable child care, poor economic conditions, not having health care, a criminal record, lack of financial literacy skills, inadequate education, homelessness, mental health problems, hunger, substance abuse, lack of transportation, and the so-called “benefits cliff” — when a small increase in pay could cause a person to lose vital government assistance.

In Pennsylvania, some 13.1 percent of residents live in poverty, about 1.6 million people.

The preliminary report does not make explicit legislative recommendations but states Mr. Reed and the policy committee hope to focus on improving the outcomes of assistance programs and benefits that aid work, and essentials like food, shelter and education.

Mr. Reed’s announcement last year that he intended to target poverty as a problem drew sharp criticism from at least one of his fellow House Republicans, and some advocacy groups were initially skeptical of his intentions.

However, the group’s preliminary findings seem to be garnering positive reviews.
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PennLive Editorial Board, PA Can Do Better in Fight Against Poverty


State Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana Co.) wants Pennsylvanians to have a more intelligent conversation about effectively attacking the poverty that continues to afflict 1.6 million state residents. He’s off to a good start.

 After researching anti-poverty efforts and talking to people around the state, Reed and his House Majority Policy Committee have issued a “mid-term report.” It offers what might be called a compassionate, pragmatic conservative’s approach to fighting poverty.

Titled “Beyond Poverty,” the report seems to reflect a genuine concern that in our land of plenty, people should not go hungry or homeless. There’s none of the overt Social Darwinist victim blaming sometimes found among hardcore Tea Party partisans.

 “It is impossible to successfully combat poverty without first addressing the basic needs of life,” says the report, listing those needs as food, water, shelter and clothing. (Another one would be health care. As the report notes elsewhere, “Far too many individuals and families are living in a world where they are one health care disaster away from falling into poverty.”)

 Reed and Co. seem to think that government should make sure the door of opportunity is open, while ensuring that anti-povery efforts work and badly designed programs don’t discourage people’s effort to climb out of poverty.


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State House Committee issues Newest Report on Poverty in Pennsylvania- 90.5 WESA Pittsburgh NPR

By &


In July 2013 State Representative Dave Reed (R-Indiana) set out to travel the state and learn more about poverty as a part of what he’s called “Empowering Opportunities: Gateways Out of Poverty.” Ten months later, Reed has issued his preliminary report on poverty in the commonwealth.

Reed, who chairs the House Majority Policy Committee, conducted his evaluation through hearings, roundtable discussions, and tours in rural, suburban, and urban parts of the state.

Reed says that there is one common factor.

“Employment, each of these barriers was either a barrier towards somebody gaining employment and gaining self-sufficiency, or a barrier that was a result of somebody losing employment.”

According to the Department of Welfare’s website, there are 1.8 million Pennsylvanian’s receiving SNAP food benefits and 191,058 receive TANF federal cash assistance for indigent families with dependent children

According to Reed, government programs aren’t effective, even when the numbers say they are.

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Tour of Harrisburg School District’s Downey School

By Courtney Cherry, Fox 43

Reed022514PolicyMeeting01_1Members of the Pennsylvania House Majority Policy Committee took a tour of Downey School in Downtown Harrisburg Tuesday afternoon. The tour is part of the Gateways out of Poverty initiative, which is part of a larger district wide initiative to improve student achievement. Committee members say they are using this program as a blueprint for others across the state.

Rep. Dave Reed (R-62nd District) says, “One of the things we’ve been looking at is let’s find successful programs and see how we can replicate those programs across the state. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you have to find what one community is doing well and how do you take it to another community and help them do well, as well.”

This visit was just one of many stops on the committee’s tour. Previously, they visited the Bethesda Mission in partnership with the House Homelessness Caucus.

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Fox43′s Coverage of Bethesda Mission Tour

Special Visit by House Majority at Bethesda Mission
Source: WPMT – Harrisburg, PA







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Young Adults Aging Out of the “System” -Diakon’s Flight Program

From Rob Kivlan, former Flight Program Manager, Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries 

In the early part of the 20th century, one of the orphanages in the history of Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries created a banking system—to help the children the home served learned how to function in the world.


Decades later, adoption services now part of Diakon became a national model because they focused exclusively on the placement of children with special needs, abandoning “traditional” adoption.

Such innovation is a hallmark of the Diakon legacy.

Five years ago, Diakon turned its attention to a problem its staff saw firsthand as they worked to change the lives of adjudicated delinquent and dependent teenagers—there was very little help for these young people the minute they “aged out” of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

A birthday rolled around and, essentially, the youths were on their own. The support that was edging these young people closer to a productive path to success quite frequently disappeared—and the road back to old habits was an easy one.

In response, Diakon created the Flight Program.

For many of its participants, Flight was a lifeline. For others, it became an amazing vehicle through which they soared to newfound success.

Initially partly funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Flight Program is a mentoring and training program designed to help youths no longer eligible for traditional assistance to become contributing members of society. Typically, they have histories of poverty, addictions, and delinquent behaviors. Quite frequently, because they had not been adopted or their foster care services ended, they lacked the needed resources and support to achieve success at work, at home, and in school—in life.

Yet they recognized that they wanted better for themselves—and so they voluntarily committed to take part in Flight.

Based at the Diakon Wilderness School near Boiling Springs, Pa., the Flight Program has seen the majority of its participants successfully obtain meaningful employment, enroll in college or trade school, and achieve the ability to live independently without need for further assistance or government support.

How has Flight achieved this? 

Beyond its emphasis on voluntary commitment to self-motivation and peer support, Flight emphasizes relationship-based delivery of services.  Because those it serves have already been exposed to traditional programs and interventions, Flight focuses on becoming a long-term, consistent presence in participants’ lives, guiding them through their steps toward adulthood much the way a stable, supportive family would shepherd a son or daughter through the next phases of life.

Flight participants are assured they will receive a year of consistent, meaningful support.  Rather than depending on various service providers and programs, Flight’s skilled staff members take a lead role in personally teaching lacking life-skills, as well as guiding participants in achieving positive, independent living.

By aligning each young adult with a staff member committed to making the sometimes-difficult journey alongside the youth, gaps in service disappear.

Plus, the voluntary nature of Flight encourages success. When Diakon team members explain we’re here to help the youths succeed and applaud their reaching out for help, a connection is made. Moreover, former Flight participants remain committed to the program, regularly mentoring current participants from the perspective of someone “who has been there.” This consistent peer support, feedback and encouragement are invaluable.

Every other week, participants and graduates gather to share successes and struggles with one another, as well as participate in activities, community service, and field trips to new and positive environments. Combining the consistent presence of a trusted staff member with this fraternal element underscores the hope Flight offers.

In fact, for some, Flight has been the last hope. 

Chris, now 22, gainfully employed, married, and a father, attempted suicide at 18. Only his awareness of the hope possible in Flight prompted his last-ditch call for help—help that in this case literally saved his life.

Today, he remains a force in Flight.

“I want to show [other youths] that they can make it,” he says. “I know personally how hard it can be, but I can also tell them anything is achievable if they work at it and seek guidance and help along the way … I don’t know what my life would have looked like without [Flight].”

Perhaps, for Chris, there might not even have been life without Flight.


To Read More About Diakon’s Flight Program…Click Here