Grassroots Organization Helps To Fight Poverty In Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara County may appear to be one of the more idyllic places in the country, but the natural beauty hides a disturbing trend: it has some of the highest poverty rates in the State of California. Dealt a reeling blow by the recession, a study was commissioned in 2012 to examine the effects of the poverty and detail the possible solutions.
“There are 18 high poverty tracts – areas where twenty percent of the population are living below the 100 percent Federal Poverty Threshold – in Santa Barbara County,” the report stated as an overview of some of the information discovered. “All of them are concentrated in four main areas and have been designated ‘high poverty areas’.”
These poverty rates are especially felt among the Latino and African American communities, where one in five and one in six, respectively, live below the Federal Poverty Threshold. More troubling is the affect this poverty has on children. In the Lompoc high poverty area, for instance, the report shows that almost half – 49% - of the children in that area were living below the threshold.
“I learned that when you engage the children in helping them improve their lives, that gets parents interested quicker and more effectively than anything else,” said B. Williams, founder and President of Solutions for People, a 501c3 non-profit based in Lompoc, designed to help at risk youths and teens continue their education and avoid getting lost to the streets. “They recognize that helping their children grow and achieve their dreams will ultimately be beneficial to the entire family.”
Since creating his foundation in 2002, Williams has helped hundreds of children avoid the temptations of the street and continue their education. Since the economic downturn, the services he provides have been more crucial than ever, while funding has dried up as the city and county have had to tighten their budgets. That led Williams to a revolutionary idea.
“I see all of these crowd source funded ideas, and I figured ‘What’s a better investment than our children’s future?’” explaining why he partnered up with the popular website GoFundMe. Much like the size of the dream that first led him to help children, the goals he has set out for the funding are very expansive.
“We have three levels of funding we are looking to get to, with the ultimate goal being the construction of the Cultural Youth Academy & Family Support Center,” he said, detailing his plans for a centrally located facility where all of the classes and programs Solutions for People offer can be held under one roof. Such a building will also serve as an anchoring centerpiece for a revitalized downtown as well. “But before we get there, we need to make sure we can continue to offer our services, in spite of the dwindling budgets. That’s why the first $100,000 we are looking for is the most important.”
For more information on Solutions for People and how you can help, please visit the following website: www.gofundme.com/solutionsforpeople
**Jack Terry is a freelance writer and community activist who has been writing about community services for many years.