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Poverty rising in southeast Iowa

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Bridges out of Poverty event in Keokuk at First Lutheran Church. Bridges out of Poverty event in Keokuk at First Lutheran Church.
Community members from teachers, small business owners, and economic leaders attended Tuesday night. Community members from teachers, small business owners, and economic leaders attended Tuesday night.
Messages and notes from the training. Messages and notes from the training.
Definition of poverty by the bridges out of poverty group. Definition of poverty by the bridges out of poverty group.
Everyone had a journey and message to spread. Everyone had a journey and message to spread.
KEOKUK, Ia. (WGEM) -

In southeast Iowa, poverty is a growing issue.

The community came together to try and make a difference and bring change to neighborhoods. 

Officials with Bridges Out of Poverty said 30 percent of people in southeast Iowa live in poverty. 

At First Lutheran Church in Keokuk, there was a training session Monday night to help define poverty and teach people how to put an end to it in their community.  

Residents in Lee County say poverty is eye opening. Pastor Rodney Underwood at First Lutheran Church in Keokuk said he sees it on a regular basis.

"You get to see those who may not have a place to stay, who may just be wondering about, collecting cans and other things to pay for whatever basic necessities they need," Underwood said.  

The poverty rate continues to grow in southeast Iowa, rising year from 27 percent to 30 percent. That's why communities are coming together.

"20 percent of adults are living in poverty," Speaker Vern Reed said. "Part of that depends on how you define poverty. One statistic thrown out is that 51 percent of all students in America are considered poor."

Economic developers are taking notes. Dennis Fraise with Lee County economic development says jobs and more than 10,000 people have left since the 1970s, and it's made a big impact. 

"I think a lot of rural communities and river towns are mature," Fraise said. "Mature housing stocks, so our tax base is lower, and it just seems that it's a perpetuating cycle."

The training gave teachers, small businesses, and churches a few tips on what they can do to help, from part-time jobs to after school programs.

The bridges out of poverty program started in southeast Iowa in 2015 and it  helps build community programs to help families get back on their feet. 

Reed said it's educated roughly 2,500 people, with 60 adults and 30 teens graduating from the night class.

"Bridges and looking at it through a different lens, gives us tools to work together by economic class, race, gender, and by age and work together to fix a problem that has to be solved," Reed said, 

There are other workshops and classes under this program. 

The next one in lee county is still in the planning stages. 

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