Community in Action
Examples of programs, policies, and tools in action.

Working Together to Tackle Poverty in Burnett County, WI

March 2, 2014

Faced with widespread poverty in their rural county, a group of concerned citizens in Burnett County, Wisconsin, came together and formed Citizens Against Poverty (CAP). Many of the folks in the county were struggling to make ends meet; this had been the case, for some, for generations. Faced with the daunting task of tackling cyclical, generational poverty, the CAP taskforce began a thoughtful information gathering and planning process to break down the issue into manageable strategies. The people living in poverty in Burnett County faced many challenges: employment, transportation, putting food on the table, heating their homes in cold Wisconsin winters, and even simply keeping a roof over their heads. How would a small group of people fix this?

CAP members knew that the long-term solutions to tackling poverty were going to take time and patience but in the long run were what was going to create real change. After many conversations with community members and internal CAP discussions about what was realistic to take on, the taskforce decided to address the issue of transportation. Burnett County is very rural with three small population centers and many people spread throughout the rest of the county. There is no public transportation and walking and biking are not feasible options. A car is necessary to get to jobs, medical appointments, the grocery store and most other destinations.

While working toward a comprehensive transportation plan that would include public transit, they are also working on some quick wins, including: 

  • Establishing a ride share program; 
  • Coordinating and maximizing current resources by working with agencies to register for the United Way 211 service and promote the service to the community; and 
  • Creating a volunteer resource center to recruit volunteers and connect them with agencies in need. 

These short-term activities allowed them to promote their taskforce and their work with community stakeholders and engaged the community in different ways to generate support for their long-term efforts.

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Communities in Action provide examples of strategies or tools in action. Their purpose is to connect like-minded communities in their implementation efforts, giving insight into how others are tackling key challenges and what they've accomplished.

Date added: March 26, 2014