Letter from the Executive Director
Syracuse, NY is known for many things. Loyalty to our local sports teams, the State Fair, four beautiful seasons. Our ability to deal with snow. We recently received a distinction, though, that no city wants. A 2015 study on poverty in America ranked Syracuse first in the nation for concentrated minority poverty out of the 100 largest metropolitan areas. The study examined data from 2009-2013 and found 33.2% of Syracuse’s population lives below the federal poverty line. Those are a lot of numbers. Here’s the bottom line: in our city of 144,000 people, there are 48,000 individuals living in poverty. That’s 1 out of every 3 people.
Catholic Charities has been working to alleviate poverty for decades. For us, these dispiriting numbers strengthened our resolve to carry out our mission. For others—including many of our donors—the study sounded an urgent alarm. In 2015, we began discussions with the Allyn Foundation about our burgeoning social venture initiatives. These programs, including Project Joseph and the Culinary Arts for Self-Sufficiency Program, provide a promising pathway out of poverty for some of the most vulnerable members of our community. In early 2016, we received some exciting news. The Allyn Foundation agreed to partner with us to strengthen these initiatives, starting with with a grant of $85,000. Thanks to their support, we’re not just training workers; we’re creating jobs.
Yet, tackling poverty requires sustained interventions at many levels. There is no single solution. If we care about poverty, we can't ignore neighborhoods in distress. We know kids thrive if they have caring, consistent relationships with adults and access to healthy neighborhood institutions. Many of our donors agree. Last year, Sheila Austin, The Community Foundation of Central New York, the Greene Family Foundation, the Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman Foundation, and the John Ben Snow Foundation all stepped forward to fund desperately needed renovations and repairs at two of our neighborhood centers—Vincent House on Syracuse’s Near Westside, and Bishop Foery on the Southside. Each year, we provide parent education and youth development programs for hundreds of kids and families at these Centers. We have seen the positive results. Thanks to this generous support, these families can continue to make the steep climb out of poverty and achieve stability.
Make no mistake. The causes of poverty are many, the consequences long lasting. We know Syracuse is home to many people living in poverty. And yet, Syracuse is also home to people who are proud of their community and have deep reservoirs of resilience. You will read more about them in this report. You will also read about our staff, volunteers and donors who are pushing back on pessimism. Together, they are building a community not characterized by punishing poverty but distinguished by citizens determined to create lasting change.
I am proud to be part of these efforts. Every day, I am humbled by our dedicated and talented staff. Every day, I am grateful to our volunteers and donors for their support and their unyielding commitment to Catholic Charities and all of the people we serve.
Michael F. Melara