Rural poverty in Erie County “invisible” to many, advocate asserts

Dec 15, 2017

People often associate poverty with urban areas. But data shows that many rural communities have higher poverty rates and far more challenges when it comes to linking people to services.

A Poverty Forum was held Friday where housing specialists, public health experts, living wage advocates and others will explore a number of issues. Rural poverty was scheduled to be one of the discussion topics.

Frank Cerny, executive director of the Rural Outreach Center.

Frank Cerny, executive director of the Rural Outreach Center in East Aurora, is one the forum’spresenters.Cerny told WBFO that rural poverty is  spread out over such large areas that it can become “invisible” to some.

“There’s virtually no attention paid to rural poverty,” Cerny said.  “Services are not available in the rural areas. Transportation is unavailable. So people are forced to make decisions in many cases not to receive services, because it’s virtually impossible for them to get to the places where services are being offered.”  

Experts believe that thousands of local residents in live in rural communities are not receiving social services that they are eligible to receive.  

“By ignoring rural areas you’re essentially writing off that part of the population,” he said.

Cerny added that job opportunities are also more scarce in many rural communities. What’s more, youngsters are impacted by service limitations.

“Children in rural areas are unable to access after school programs because transportation has been cut and many other things that we would consider normal childhood experiences are unavailable to the rural population.” Cerny said.

The Rev. Kinzer Pointer chairs the Erie County Poverty Committee.
Credit WBFO file photo

During the forum, officials released the annual Erie County Poverty Committee Report of Recommendations.

The forum was held in Hayes Hall on the University at Buffalo South Campus.  Other topics explored included diversity in employment, housing and public health challenges.