The most important finding of a recent Brookings Institution/Federal Reserve Bank study on concentrated poverty was not the descriptions of joblessness, high crime, poor educations and negative health outcomes.
The understated conclusion from the 16 case studies of rural and urban concentrated poverty was the importance of the nonprofit sector.
When nonprofit organizations -- community development corporations, human-service agencies, faith-based organizations and others -- were active, engaged, organizing and advocating, these neighborhoods were making some halting progress.
Where nonprofit capacity was minimal or nonexistent, the neighborhoods more than languished and even declined.
The study examined desperately poor communities in the U.S. as diverse as urban neighborhoods and rural areas.
But the obvious finding about the nonprofit sector virtually jumped off the pages of the report, based on a number of compelling examples of nonprofit courage and creativity:
* In West Fresno, Calif., where the private market had basically collapsed, it was a community development corporation that bucked the prevailing wisdom and instigated the creation of a neighborhood shopping center providing important services and jobs for the residents.
* In the combined Old Hill, Six Corners and South End neighborhoods of Springfield, Mass., a collaboration of Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services, the Hampden Hampshire Housing Partnership, and Habitat for Humanity have joined forces to create housing for first-time homebuyers.
* In Holmes County, Miss., the West Holmes Community Development Corporation is carrying out a remarkable program integrating sustainable agriculture, youth employment, skills development and health and nutrition issues, an impressive display of creativity that rivals the best efforts of much-better-heeled nonprofits elsewhere in the U.S.
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