The reality of poverty is one that is multi-layered and complex, rooting from the intricacies of a challenging society. Poverty is not limited to one group of people, meaning that anyone at any time is at risk of experiencing economic hardship. The citizens of the United States have continuously experienced poverty; however, the South has historically been hit hard by this problem. Being one of the largest metropolitan cities in the South, the city of Memphis has experienced economic hardship firsthand. Although the community has been committed to fighting for economic equality, a recent study by The University of Memphis reported that we still face a serious battle. The statistics and information presented were received by the community with a heavy heart, but with even more motivation to persevere. The community will continue fighting for change and innovating systems to find comprehensive solutions to poverty in Memphis.

Community elevation

The city of Memphis is proactive about confronting poverty, and local government and community members alike have taken an aggressive approach to find ways of bridging the wealth gap. This approach requires extreme community involvement and education on how to make a progressive difference. To reach these goals, initiatives and foundational changes are being implemented in Memphis’ systems. Recently, the head leaders of the city’s top educational institutions committed to lead the way in bridging the racial wealth gap in our community. This commitment has begun with raising the minimum wage of employees within the institutions, increasing expenditure supporting local minority and female-owned businesses, and keeping tuitions at stable prices to provide educational access. These changes will not only assist education-based efforts, but they will also affect the entire surrounding community. Local community initiatives also include notable organizations such as the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, which envisions a strategic plan to provide necessary services and resources to elevate poverty-stricken families to economic stability. Annually, the Women’s Foundation of Greater Memphis assists more than 17,000 women and children in the city and has invested more than $8 million in Comprehensive Case Management for low-income families. The goal behind these community investments and the reevaluation of financial systems within the city is to uplift efforts to disrupt poverty in Memphis.

Never losing hope

Among the 50 largest regions in the U.S., Memphis is No. 1 in terms of the number of nonprofit organizations per 10,000 population, and almost 60 percent of these organizations are working to serve low-income and disadvantaged populations. The community seeks to elevate those living in poverty through education innovation, entrepreneurship and equal pay, and community involvement. United Way of the Mid-South is a representation of these organizational efforts, maintaining a focus on access to education, financial stability and health education, and providing living essentials for those living in poverty within the city. Through its initiative “Faces of Poverty,” United Way of the Mid-South provides a platform for those who have lived in poverty to tell their stories. These stories bring hope and motivation to the community, revealing UWMS’ mission: to improve the quality of life for Mid-Southerners by mobilizing and aligning community resources to address poverty. Along with “Faces of Poverty” and other ground-breaking accomplishments, UWMS has established a free tax prep program, which has generated $12 million back into the local community, benefitting small business owners. Through workforce education, UWMS has provided 9,394 people with free tax prep assistance, relocated 1,281 people into permanent housing, provided 3,134 people with job readiness training and placement services, and provided 5,585 people with services to increase their financial stability and resources. Other organizations and foundations in Memphis coincide with the UWMS mission, covering a diverse range of needs and assistance surrounding poverty in the city. This range of organizational diversity promotes volunteer work and public service, but also allows Memphians to have an extensive understanding of how important it is to immerse themselves in their local community. Paving the way for this understanding are foundations such as the Dorothy Day House, Nurse-Family Partnership, Metropolitan Inter-Faith Associations and Slingshot Memphis, which provide health, financial, educational and necessity-based services.

Be a changemaker 

Memphis is a city driven by self-reflection, perseverance and a limitless love for the community. Although we have experienced true hardships, poverty being one of the most prominent, there is always hope for a better future. The solutions to our hardships are never easily found, but Memphians don’t easily give up. Our community brings its soul to every endeavor and will continue aiming to be better, leading the way for the rest of the nation. Join us in the fight against poverty in Memphis and be a changemaker by volunteering, donating and elevating.     


Additional Resources: