Groups seek input on poverty problem

WEIRTON – Catholic Charities West Virginia, C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc. and the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition are seeking input on how to best help local low-income families.

The groups invite Brooke and Hancock county residents to a public meeting from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday at Millsop Community Center to discuss the issue.

Erin McDonald, regional director for Catholic Charities West Virginia, and Jim Boniey, chief operating officer for C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc., said the meeting will have three purposes: To determine key issues related to poverty in the two counties; to involve people of different backgrounds and interests in the effort to address poverty; and to begin planning a child poverty forum slated for March.

Wednesday’s meeting is among many being organized by the coalition throughout the state with the help of 37 local agencies. Stephen Smith, the coalition’s new executive director, plans to participate.

According to the coalition, which is a nonprofit organization supported by the West Virginia Council of Churches and others, 30 percent of West Virginia children under age 6 are in households with incomes of less than $20,000 per year or $400 a week.

The group said poverty is a community problem because research has shown poor children are twice as likely to be arrested, three times as likely to have severe health problems and typically grow up to earn incomes less than half of those in the middle class.

The coalition was formed in 1998 to encourage the creation of the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was established to provide health care coverage for children without it.