A new book from the Brookings Institution Press – Confronting Suburban Poverty in America – cites a 25 percent increase in poverty in Montgomery County between 2000 and 2010 – and praises Montgomery County’s exemplary response.
“Montgomery County officials and service providers recognized the changing needs of a diversifying population and anticipated the growing demands that would arise as the Great Recession began to take hold,” write Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube in the book.
“In 2006, the newly elected county executive, Isiah (Ike) Leggett, signaled that the county recognized the transitions under way and the need to leverage resources beyond what it alone could provide.”
The book cites the creation of the Office of Community Partnerships and the launching of the Neighborhood Opportunity Network as two creative examples of a responsive local government following a “proactive and collaborative approach” in meeting the growing social service needs of diverse families in the County. The number of County residents living under the poverty line in the County rose by two-thirds – or more than 30,000 people -- with the onset of the Great Recession.
The Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NON), established in 2009, was an effort by Montgomery County and a broad network of non profit service providers, community organizers and and the Montgomery County Community Foundation to bring services closer to communities and neighborhoods suffering during the recession. Three NON sites were opened in 2009-2010, and remain in operation today, having already delivered services to over than 10,000 residents most in need.
The Office of Community Partnership, part of the County’s Community Engagement Cluster, was established by Leggett to make sure that all of the diverse communities in the County had “in Leggett’s words, a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. The Office has taken the lead on issues ranging from voluntarism and the 2010 census to community-building efforts and cultural events.
“I’m proud of the changes we have made and the work we have done to serve a changing County and those most in need,” said County Executive Leggett. “It had to be done and we did it. I appreciate the recognition from such a prestigious source as Brookings.”
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