The Lincoln County Resource Board (LCRB) transported legislators and local leaders to the forefront of children’s mental health needs, exploring poverty and its ripple effects.
The fifth annual LCRB Legislative Summit & Mobile Outreach Tour, sponsored by Toyota Bodine, gathered policymakers including Representative Randy Pietzman; Senator Jeanie Riddle; and representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley and Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer.
The 2019 summit launched from Elsberry High School where Middle School Principal Jason Miller and Elementary School Principal Amanda Seeley shared stories of how poverty impacts the educational experience of our children and drains school resources. Presenters also included LCRB-funded providers Sts. Joachim & Ann Care Service and Youth In Need who addressed the trauma caused by poverty.
A common theme emerged among the summit presenters: Lincoln County must resolve the issue of “slum” landlords. Lincoln County does not have countywide planning and zoning, which leaves impoverished families vulnerable to landlords who rent properties with substandard living conditions. Substandard living conditions in Lincoln County can include infestations of mold, rodents and/or pests; faulty or no heating systems; electrical faults; broken plumbing; unsanitary bathrooms and toilets; and more. In addition to the properties’ unhealthy and unsafe conditions, these properties also leave poor families with exceedingly high utility costs on top of their rent.
“We were grateful for the opportunity to invite legislators to Elsberry to hear the stories of some of our students, and to learn about our community,” said Jason Miller, Elsberry Middle School Principal. “Our goal is to give Elsberry students a solid educational foundation from which to build their lives. In order to do so, we need to find ways to address the challenges many of our students face, including homelessness, challenges with appropriate housing, and challenges surrounding mental health needs. These challenges have few quick fixes and take a community approach to solve, but we are glad to have many dedicated partners in this battle to help our students.”
The summit concluded with a stop at The Key Youth Center and tour of its completed female residence for unaccompanied youth. At The Key, participants heard from The Key’s board of directors Shiloh Werkmeister and Kristi Gregory who spoke to poverty as a driver of youth homelessness. Amy Robins, supervisor of forensic services at The Child Center, addressed trauma and poverty’s correlation to child victimization.
“We thank every legislator, local leader and our ministerial community for coming together to explore how poverty affects the health and education of our children and youth and to collaborate on local solutions,” said Kathy Boessen, LCRB chairperson. “We look forward to seeing what ripple effects this summit will have on our community and its future … our children.”