Niagara Gazette

Opinion

March 6, 2014

GUEST EDIT: Niagara Falls Community Report: A Bellwether Call for Action

Niagara Gazette — I applaud the Niagara Gazette for publishing the first of a series of stories on poverty in Niagara Falls.

Headlined “HARD TIMES,” this news story serves as a bellwether for a call for action. This report illustrates how the prolonged economic crisis has devastated our great City of Niagara Falls, creating a culture of poverty and causing a wide range of human service needs. The news report was based on research prepared by the University at Buffalo Regional Institute with the support of The John R. Oishei Foundation

Once known as the “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” Niagara Falls has fallen victim to several alarming indicators and trends. Nearly one out of every two people in Niagara Falls is living near or below the poverty level and one-third of the City’s at-risk population is unemployed.

Teen pregnancy rates in Niagara Falls are the second highest across Western New York’s eight counties. More than half of all rental units are substandard and about 15 percent of our most vulnerable citizens have urgent concerns for food. Twenty percent of City residents do not own an automobile.

The list of poverty-related issues goes on and on.

Our community has a choice. We can keep talking about all that ails us. Or, we can stand up and make a difference.

Back in 2009, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center did its own study on the health needs of the Niagara community. Our findings prompted our institution to stand up and make a difference. Our research caused us to travel a new pathway. The community- based data we formulated guided our strategic efforts to transform Memorial from a traditional safety net hospital to a Center for Community Health and Wellness.

Memorial’s transformation journey has been arduous, but it is one that has permitted Memorial to score many victories for the Niagara community. Our work is helping to steer Niagara Falls in a new direction.

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