Port City Looks To Combat Local Poverty

OSWEGO, NY – Mayor William Barlow Jr., is spearheading an effort, in collaboration with the Community Development Office and others, to improve the opportunity for everyone to achieve self-sufficiency and to become financially independent.

They are seeking council approval to provide a poverty awareness training through an established program provided by Visions For Change for $1,500 as the first step in raising awareness towards the $25 million Anti-Poverty Program proposed by Governor Cuomo, Community Development Director Justin Rudgick explained Monday night.

Oswego is one of the identified communities to receive $500,000 to improve the quality, efficiency and reach of services that address poverty.

He is working with VFC as well as the county’s Poverty Reduction Task Force.

The Poverty Awareness Training Poverty Simulation will provide a snapshot of what poverty looks like in America – based on the stories and experiences of people and families that VFC has worked with.

During the simulation, participants will take on the role of an individual living in poverty. They will pay their monthly bills, get their kids to school (or daycare), keep all their appointments and go to work every day (or look for a job). Participants what it feels like to think in the moment and make decisions based on survival, Rudgick noted.

Most people walk away from the simulation “feeling frustrated, confused, disbelieving or in shock,” he added.

In order for the city to come up with a program that really addresses poverty, he pointed out, “We first need to understand what poverty is.”

Many people in the community have never lived in poverty and don’t truly understand what it is like to live moment to moment, he added.

This program will help clarify what the issues are and how people can empathize and sympathize that truly live in poverty and struggle to make ends meet, he said.

The simulation is geared toward elected officials and community leaders. It’s open to council members, department heads, directors of OCO, the United Way and others, Rudgick said.

“That way, (decision makers) can understand how challenging it is, how frustrating it is,” Rudgick told the councilors.

The second part of the initiative would involve things like job searches, job retention and job coaching, he said.

“A lot is spent helping individuals living in poverty get a job. But we fall short of actually helping them retaining a job,” he explained.

The simulation is really an eye-opener, he said.

“We can’t make a decision to change people’s lives until we truly understand the challenges that they face,” he said.

OCO has done poverty simulations previously. But, they have no immediate plans to engage in the current simulation, the Community Development Director said.

Oswego is being aggressive in addressing poverty in the Port City, he said.

The city is bottom heavy in poverty and will remain there “until we understand how we can tip the scale,” he added.

The Walk in My Shoes training takes 3-4 hours, after which there would be a debrief with the group. The program’s designed for up to 120 participants.

Funding would come from the Community Development Office’s budget line, Rudgick said.

Currently, those needing assistance visit many different places seeking help; Department of Social Services, Community Development Office, Salvation Army, United Way and others.

“They’re going around and around. There has to be a way to streamline this process,” Rudgick said.

The committee sent the proposal to the full council for consideration.


  1. In order for the city to come up with a program that really addresses poverty, he pointed out, “We first need to understand what poverty is.”

    Well, here’s a little tidbit on working-man poverty: When one has to pay what we taxpayers are paying to “live” in this town, that’s the epitome of poverty. Take the water/sewer rates(again) as an example, when that insane thing comes due every quarter a working-stiff literally has to come up with an extra paycheck to cover it…problem is, there’s no extra paycheck to be had to do so which causes POVERTY ABSOLUTE!!! Only thing left we can do to try to survive it is to simply speak with our feet & get out of here!!!

  2. How about government (local, state, and federal) allowing those of us who choose to work for a “living” to keep our overly-hard-earned dollars instead of stealing it from us in the form of excessive taxes and fees? I am put down to poverty all because of excessive taxation or I would be able to live that proverbial “American dream”…hell, most poor people I see at Walmart the beginning of every month buy more food than I can afford to buy in 6 months…plus drive better vehicles than I do, get free rent, free health care, etc all the while I and people just like me are forced to pay for it all through taxes. This working man fool has had more than enough!!! Barlow might want to try to get a real job and buy his own house in this city to see what I am talking about…try paying that water bill and survive around here all the while suffering yearly tax increases so those on the public dole (workers and welfarites) can live the high life.

  3. Want to combat it? Then stop importing it into the city. Nobody is moving to Oswego for the jobs we have to offer (because there are none) stop adding more low income housing because that only brings in more poverty from the surounding counties. Just take a ride through the city during the day…it looks like somebody forgot to lock the doors to the mental ward.

  4. Congratulations to Mayor Barlow for taking this very positive step to address the poverty in our community head-on, and doing so in a collaborative way. Mayor Barlow is working to improve Oswego and bringing it into the 21st century, with some residents kicking and screaming, as we can from some other comments. His success is our success, making life better for everyone.

  5. Hey Tess…describe what Barlow’s “success” might look like and at what cost to the few taxpayers left here….you obviously have ties

  6. If the mayor and his friends wants to see poverty up close and first hand. Just get your head out of the clouds and walk around the neighborhoods and see for himself how people are living. You don’t need training for this. All you need is a good pair of shoes. Lowering the water and sewer fees would be a good start to help some people living in poverty around Oswego. Oh I forgot that would be the right thing to do. Guess you can’t take this to the committee or council to see what they think of the idea on poverty is really like in the city.

  7. Mayor Barlow and everyone that thinks that’s the “free” Wi- Fi is a good idea, adding luxury apartment buildings (for that no one can afford to live in) and the list goes on… Lets have all of you go work at the soup kitchen. Prepare, cook, serve and clean up and wash the pots and pans afterwords. Look at the faces of the families, the children. I have done it before I became disabled and with the way this city is being run my son and my self my soon be in line with them. Now that is poverty Mayor Barlow. Sit down and talk to those families. They are the most thankful people you will ever meet because they got a meal that day. You can read, look at videos all you want but you will learn more from real life experience. Time to experience life and grow up, then if you are serious about helping Oswego, you might be able to do so.

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