Many people in the Red Wing area don't realize poverty is an issue here, according to the organizers of an upcoming community forum.
"We want to tell people it's real, it's happening here and it's getting bigger," said Maureen Nelson of the United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties.
And they also want to find out what can be done about it.
"How does the community wrap around them and support them?" Nelson said of the people struggling with poverty.
The forum, planned for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at First Lutheran Church, comes after dozens of area leaders participated in a Bridges Out of Poverty training session at the end of last month.
The goal is to provide information about the issue to the public and find more ways to address poverty, said Colleen Clark of the Red Wing League of Women Voters, which is sponsoring the event.
"It's just expanding the conversation," she said. "It's about how do we as a community create an atmosphere in our town that works for everybody?"
About 9 percent of Goodhue County's population lives in poverty, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Bridging Poverty: A Community Forum will include an introduction, panel, discussion about what's next and questions from the audience.
Panelists will speak about how poverty is evident in and impacts education, nutrition, housing, health, seniors and youth.
"Each speaker will bring their perspective on what they see," Clark said.
In the weeks following the forum, the United Way will facilitate some smaller groups more focused on individual topics, Nelson said.
Clark said the area has many good and effective resources for those living in poverty. But they don't necessarily work together or help with everything, she added.
"We do a good job offering programs and meeting specific needs," Clark said. "But a lot of gaps remain."
Nelson said people who are not struggling with poverty also need to recognize that having others in the community facing these problems does impact them. She listed schooling, insurance and the local economy among many areas affected by poverty.
"I don't think people understand how much poverty affects them in their own lives," Nelson said.
If you go
What: Bridging Poverty: A Community Forum
When: Sept. 19, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: First Lutheran Church, 615 W. Fifth St.