CHICAGO – As part of the ongoing effort to help Illinoisans through the tough economic times, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that his administration will convene the first Illinois Poverty Summit, entitled Opportunities for Change: Taking Action to End Extreme Poverty in Illinois, on December 9th and 10th, 2008. The summit will be hosted in partnership with Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research in Evanston, IL. Those interested in attending the summit can register online at www.illinois.gov/povertysummit.
The summit, cosponsored by the Illinois Department of Human Services and Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights and hosted with Northwestern University, will bring together leaders and advocates to develop recommendations to bring about a substantive decrease in the numbers of Illinoisans living in extreme poverty.
Extreme poverty is defined by living on an annual income of less than half the poverty line. For example, a family of four in extreme poverty would have a family income of less than $11,000 a year. An estimated 686,000 Illinoisans live in extreme poverty. Nearly half of all these people are children, seniors or people with disabilities.
“With the tough economic times many families are now in crisis; those in extreme poverty live their daily lives in crisis,” said Governor Blagojevich. “The Illinois Poverty Summit will be a positive turning point with regard to the levels of extreme poverty in Illinois.”
Marian Wright Edelman, Founder and President of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), who has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for over 30 years, will serve as its keynote speaker in the opening plenary session. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, and has released her new book, The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation. She is also the winner of many awards for her work, including a MacArthur Fellowship, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, a Heinz Award, and a Niebuhr Award. In 2000, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings.
Earlier this year, Governor Blagojevich signed House Bill 4369, sponsored by Representative Karen Yarbrough (D-Broadview) and Senator Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign), to create the Commission on the Elimination of Poverty. The legislation tasked the Commission to develop a strategic plan to reduce extreme poverty in Illinois by 50 percent or more by 2015 by focusing on, at a minimum, eight basic areas: affordable housing, adequate food and nutrition, affordable and quality health care, equal access to quality education, dependable and affordable transportation, quality and affordable child care, opportunities to engage in sustainable work that pays a living wage, and availability of adequate income supports.
The Governor plans to use the summit not only to educate and energize newly appointed commission members, legislators, state agency directors and community members, but also as a catalyst to help achieve the Commission’s worthy goal.
“The Opportunities for Change Summit is an important step towards identifying and acting on specific proposals that will provide real opportunity for the close to 700,000 people in Illinois experiencing extreme poverty,” said Sid Mohn, President of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights. “I and my colleagues on the new Commission on the Elimination of Poverty are excited to engage in this conversation and use the ideas coming from the summit to create a plan that will realize the human rights of the most vulnerable in our state.”
Additional session speakers include: Mark H. Greenberg, Senior Fellow at American Progress and former Executive Director of American Progress' Task Force on Poverty and Sarah Burd-Sharps, co-director of the American Human Development Project and former Deputy Director of the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Participants in the summit include the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, Woodstock Institute, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Black Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Education Foundation, TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities), Safer Foundation, Action for Children, Voices for Children, Chicago Metropolis 2020, Erie Neighborhood House, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago Coalition on the Homeless, Farm Resource Center, Rural Assistance Illinois, Illinois Coalition for Community Services, Illinois Housing Development Authority, Illinois Department of Human Services and Mental Health for Rural Communities.
For Illinoisans living in poverty, agencies under the Governor offer assistance including: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child care, education, job training, transportation, food stamps, medical, immigration and refugee services, literacy, vocational training, vocational rehabilitation and other services help people work toward self-sufficiency. Since 2003, more than 4500 families have worked their way off of welfare.