State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) hosted a community listening session Oct. 5 on behalf of the Illinois Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security.
Sen. Fowler was joined by Jason McKinnies, Senior Pastor at Southern Illinois Worship Center, and Sherrie L. Crabb, Chief Executive Officer at Arrowleaf, a human services agency in Southern Illinois that focuses on behavioral health, developmental services, and community collaboration.
This marks the sixth listening session held throughout Illinois to gather community input to inform a comprehensive strategic plan to address and eliminate poverty in Illinois.
The goals of the listening sessions were to:
- Understand from participants how poverty in Illinois and existing anti-poverty programs have impacted Southern Illinois communities.
- Hear recommendations from participants about what policies and system transformations could improve the lives and livelihoods of residents in Southern Illinois.
Sen. Fowler, who is a member of the Commission, noted that the 59th Senate District encompasses some of the more impoverished counties in Illinois, making it particularly important for the experiences of Southern Illinois residents to be reflected in the State’s strategy.
“Poverty and food insecurity are profoundly serious issues facing hundreds of families throughout the state, with Southern Illinois having some of the highest poverty rates in Illinois,” said Sen. Fowler. “This listening session was about hearing from those throughout the region who see firsthand the daily challenges and realities of living in poverty, and giving those individuals a forum to voice their thoughts on how we can help address poverty in Illinois.”
The Illinois Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security was created in 2020. The Commission focuses on alleviating intergenerational poverty and ultimately eliminating all poverty in Illinois. The Commission is tasked with creating a strategic plan to address systemic inequities and ensure long-term, multigenerational economic mobility.
“The key to reducing and eliminating poverty is investing in human capital – our emotional capital, educational capital, and social capital,” said Sherrie Crabb, the Chief Executive Officer of Arrowleaf. “We all weather storms in our lives and require resources and opportunities that are equitable and strategically placed in order for all of us to reach our fullest potential. It is challenging work, but investing in people is the answer.”
“In the listening session last evening, the community of Southern Illinois expressed great solidarity in tackling the diversity of issues that the Poverty Commission can address. I found the common theme among those participating was a call for the restoration of hope,” said Jason McKinnies, Senior Pastor at Southern Illinois Worship Center. “The Poverty Commission’s ambitious goals and initiatives are a tremendous opportunity for the State of Illinois to move many of our citizens out of poverty and into prosperity.”
The Commission is made up of 25 members: four members of the State General Assembly; one member of the judiciary; and 20 public leaders who represent organizations and individuals impacted by poverty. The Commission is administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services, which has implemented the listening session series over the last three months and will guide the development of the strategic plan.