Western Michigan University launched the Community Empowerment Center in 2013.
The center's interim executive director Teresa Bingman says the statistics on poverty in the nation are troubling, and the numbers are worse in Michigan and in Kalamazoo.
Bingman says the idea of the center is to bring the community and the university together to address the issue of poverty. She says the university can play a major role with research that can lead to "best practice models."
While there is wealth in the Kalamazoo community, Bingman says many communities with high rates of poverty also have wealthy benefactors. She says it takes a combination of public and private sector solutions to address poverty.
The Kalamazoo Promise, established by anonymous donor, is one of the examples of the wealth in Kalamazoo. Bingman says that can help knock down the hurdles of poverty. She says the efforts to replicate it in other cities shows it is working. Bingman, who worked in Governor Jennifer Granholm's administration, says one of the challenges is making sure that people are aware of the promise and other programs that could tear down the barriers of poverty.
President Obama addressed poverty and income inequality during his State of the Union address (NPR story). Bingman says she thought the President spelled out various proposals that could help combat poverty. Those include creating job apprenticeships, renewing unemployment insurance and raising the minimum wage. Bingman says the main way to get out of poverty is to be able to earn a decent living.
A longer interview with Teresa Bingman can be heard Wednesday morning at 9:20 on WestSouthwest.