Officials Look to Slow Lynchburg's Poverty Rate

Lynchburg, VA - Homelessness comes hand in hand with poverty, an issue Lynchburg has its fair share of.

Those who work with helping the poor said, it's a problem that's going nowhere fast. Every urban area in the country has a population living at or below the federal poverty level.

In Lynchburg, according to the most recent census, that population is at 20% of the city.

Jabari Hanif can be heard singing in the halls throughout Lynchburg's Salvation Army. He's one of the many faces of homelessness in the Hill City.

"Right now, I'm just staying with friends; I walk the street all night," he said.

He walks in the bitter cold drifting from place to place, with nowhere to call home.

"Last night, it was real cold. I had to actually call an ambulance to come pick me up. My hands swelled up, my feet and toes swelled up, they were white" said Hanif.

But the poor aren't confined to the halls of the Salvation Army.

"We can't have one social worker dealing with thousands and thousands of families here in our schools that are struggling with poverty" said Lynchburg City Schools Superintendent, Dr. Scott Brabrand.

Brabrand knows all too well of the Hill City's poverty problem. In 2012, 60% of enrolled students were eligible for reduced or free lunches.

"Our teachers know content, they know pedagoge, but they don't know all of the issues around how to navigate through poverty and family crises" he said.

"I don't think any city is exempt from poverty" said Cindy Sommers, of the Lynchburg Neighborhood Development Foundation.

Sommers works to help the 20% of Lynchburg that lives in poverty find housing, and keep long term jobs.

To her, poverty is not a problem that can be solved, only one that can be helped.

"There are a lot of agencies and organizations in Lynchburg that do have that goal of keeping poverty low" she said.

Sommers said organizations like the Salvation Army, Daily Bread, and the United Way are all meant to help, not solve poverty. She said there's no single solution to this incredibly large problem.