Most people know that poverty over the last 50 years has grown in rural, urban and suburban corners of American society. What many may not realize is that there are now more poor people living in suburban America than in cities. However, most of the social service delivery network is still concentrated in the urban core. This made sense in decades past, but it doesn’t now. We cannot abandon our cities, but we also need to rethink how we deliver human services most effectively and efficiently to meet people in need where they are.
We can start this by helping build the 21st century social service network in suburban America. Instead of building stand alone operations, why not create hubs to deliver services? We might take a page from other service-based organizations, like banks, and create, where appropriate self-service centers in the heart of neighborhoods. I rarely go into a brick and mortar bank today, and that’s a win for the bank and for me. I receive the service I need at a low price-point for the bank. Can we use existing innovations to make social services more accessible to people who need it most and less costly for those who fund it?
Many families face unimaginable challenges. They need aligned, complementary support services to get safely on the path to self reliance. We have some great place-based models in our region that need to be reimagined in light of this suburbanization of poverty. How can we leverage our existing resources to refocus and scale our efforts to create conditions to help people live better lives in urban, rural and suburban parts of our region?
If we are going to change the trajectory of a generation, we need to deploy resources more effectively and efficiently to hurting people.