The Florida Chamber wants to cut childhood poverty in half by 2030. The plan: Address the root causes of poverty at the zip code level.
Michael Williams, the executive director of the Florida Prosperity Initiative, called on Collier County business leaders to join the effort during a virtual Wake Up Naples sponsored by the United Way of Collier and the Keys. Williams told attendees that creating pathways to prosperity for all Floridians will take the “entire business community.”
There are more than 3 million Floridians living in poverty, or nearly 15 percent of the population. Williams said 870,505 children live in poverty, and half of those live in just 150 of the state’s 983 zip codes.
“We have to remember that we’re not talking about situations that grew up organically,” said Williams. “Nobody in this room was probably alive when these polices were made. But through housing policies, urban planning policies, and through all kids of decisions at the governmental level, we have situations where these neighborhoods are created where you see the disparity in the demographics.”
There are 14,089 children living in poverty in Collier County. A zip code by zip code breakdown showed that 4,706 of those children live in the 34142 zip code, which accounts for about 50% of people under the age of 18 living there.
The analysis found 2,637 children in the 34116 zip code, or nearly 29%, live in poverty. By comparison, 255 children, or 20%, in the 34102 zip code live in poverty.
The zip code analysis is important, Williams said, because the research has shown a key indicator for “whether someone was going to go to college or not,” wasn’t SAT scores or where they ranked in their high school, but “the zip code they were born into.”
“The thing that is lost on many people and the thing that is most important … is the complete connectivity of these things. Nobody is in poverty just because they don’t have affordable housing. Nobody is in poverty because they have poor health benefits,” he said. “All these things are interrelated and the relationship that these root causes play against each other can look very different community to community, but all of them have a part to play in causing generational poverty.”
Williams called on businesses to lead the way on addressing the issue by adopting a zip code and working together to create pathways for prosperity in their own communities.
“What we’re trying to do through the Prosperity Initiative throughout the state of Florida is create a framework for zip code relief,” he said. “It’s going to take all of us. It’s going to take the entire business community stepping up and saying this is something that’s important and something we need to be in support of.”
For more information about the Florida Prosperity Initiative or to become a zip code champion, click here.