Update: It was in 2015 when 6,000 Butte-Silver Bow residents received at least one service from Action Inc.
In a pep talk of sorts, community leaders gathered Friday to brainstorm how to solve local poverty issues — together.
“Sometimes we’re so consumed with what we’re doing that we don’t share enough,” said Theresa Rader, Montana Tech TRIO specialist who guides low-income students through high school and college. “There’s more of a need to have these meetings.”
The current poverty rate in Butte-Silver Bow stands at 19.5 percent, a more than 2-percent increase since 2011. The state estimate is 15.5 percent and the national is 15.2 percent.
Worrisome statistics like that drew 40 social services workers, housing advisors, caseworkers, counselors, school district reps, law enforcement personnel and job finders to pinpoint goals for Butte-Silver Bow to help more low-income folks connect with the services they need.
Ending poverty takes innovative, community-based, collaborative solutions, said Margie Seccomb, Action Inc. director and host to a discussion on poverty at the Human Resources XII headquarters.
“We need to become better advocates — we need a true collaborative system and not just lip service,” Seccomb said. “We will continue to build relationships with all of you.”
Flying under the radar are services like Volunteers of America, 2825 Lexington Ave., Suite B in Butte. It is a little-known entity that helps military veterans in the short term.
Susan Gambrel, service coordinator for veteran services, said her office guides vets struggling with health issues like PTSD or addiction — and who may need financial assistance for housing.
“We help them get on their feet,” said Gambrel. “We mentor them.”
Those who may need temporary assistance for housing, utilities or food — and those who may work more than one job yet still fall barely above the poverty line — are the people in need who fall between the cracks, agreed several leaders.
About 42 percent of the population in Butte-Silver Bow are eligible for at least some public assistance programs because folks in that group fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
Filling the gaps for the working poor, single-family households, veterans, seniors and homeless youth are some of the major issues leaders are working to solve.
At least 6,000 BSB residents received at least one service from Action Inc. in 2015, said Seccomb. The total estimated county population is 34,622, according to the 2015 census.
Getting the word out to those in need is key, too.
“We have a $5 million budget annually,” said Seccomb, “so we have resources to get out to people to help end poverty.”
Action Inc. headquarters at 25 W. Silver St., serves southwestern counties Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Granite, Madison, Powell and Butte-Silver Bow. It is a private non-profit that networks with 1,000 other community action agencies that provide services to poor people and seek solutions to poverty.
Action Inc. was formerly known as Human Resources, District XII.
The focus group meets every few years to hone collaborative approaches to refine teamwork among a wide range of social organizations.
“It really is a good opportunity for individuals who don’t get together on a regular basis to share what they’re doing,” said group facilitator Colleen Rudio, a 1986 Butte High School graduate and owner of Cascadia Business Development in Missoula.
Meanwhile, as leaders from all corners sort their overlapping and strategic services, continual collaboration remains crucial.
“We view this as an opportunity to build and strengthen partnerships because the war on poverty is something we can’t do on our own,” said Seccomb.