Conference highlights strategies for poverty, prisoner reentry

“If we view poverty as a problem of individuals, communities, or institutions alone, we miss out. Using a ‘triple lens’ approach that focuses on all three areas has worked well for us in communities, and we’re seeing succeACP-Bridges-authorssses in prisons now with the reentry program.” These are the words of Philip DeVol, a plenary session presenter at the sold-out Addressing the Challenges of Poverty conference held October 4–6 at the Hilton Netherland Plaza. DeVol is the co-author of Bridges Out of Poverty, published by aha! Process (Highlands, TX), the primary organizer of the conference. Programs based on Bridges Out of Poverty, which DeVol wrote with Terie Dreussi-Smith and aha! Process founder Dr. Ruby Payne, were the focus of many of the conference’s breakout sessions.

In a joint keynote with Payne, Dr. Marcela Wilson of Matrix Human Services (Detroit, MI) detailed the integration of her “Transition to Success” model with aha! Process’s work in communities. The model will be used at the institutional level to encourage social service agencies to provide their clients with Getting Ahead programs.

More than 300 people from 36 states, Mexico, and Canada attended the conference, which featured more than 50 presentations by practitioners. Presenters shared best practices from their communities for loweriACP-Amstutz-general-session-1ng the poverty rate using variations on aha! Process’s “triple lens” approach. Many presenters discussed implementing Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World groups (based on DeVol’s book of the same name).

While Getting Ahead supports individuals and families in making the transition out of poverty, presenters Sonia Holycross and Jessica Echols of Partners in Hope (Troy, OH) outlined their follow-up support initiative, Staying Ahead. Partners in Hope uses Payne’s recent book How Much of Yourself Do You Own?, the TED series, family development coaching, data tracking, and faith-based supports to keep graduates of Getting Ahead programs connected after the programs end. Holycross, a Getting Ahead graduate herself, and Echols wrote in the session’s description: “We have had many discussions during the past year with people and programs from around the country that are looking for new ideas that work, and this works.”

DeVol, along with co-authors Mitch Libster and Michelle Wood, delivered a keynote address introducing Getting Ahead While Getting Out, a book inspired by efforts to use DeVol’s other books with prison populations. DeVol cites prison statistics—300,000 U.S. prisoners in 1972 compared wACP-cyclists-2ith 2.3 million in 2014—and the need for communities using his programs to “step up with solutions.” The new program supports returning citizens by helping them map out their first 72 hours after release—an important time during which recidivism is most likely. Getting Ahead While Getting Out also provides long-term planning for reintegration into the community and the workplace.

To raise awareness of poverty, a group of 16 cyclists rode 550 miles to the conference from their homes near Lancaster, PA. Conference presenters Tim Rogers and Chuck Holt of the Together Initiative helped organize the ride. “We have a saying at the Together Initiative,” said Rogers. “If you want to go faster, go alone. If want to go further, go together.”