Portsmouth City Council to develop poverty task force

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Portsmouth City Council has decided to launch a new task force to address root causes for poverty and help residents to earn higher wages.

The city will form the roughly 20-member committee in the coming months, and over the next year, city staff will work to figure out just how many people in the city are living in poverty.

“We’re here to serve the public,” said City Manager Dr. Lydia Pettis-Patton. “The goal is to eliminate poverty … this is going to be a huge effort. This is going to be a huge task.”

The idea for the task force was developed at last week’s council retreat.

Mayor John Rowe says he hopes it will open a dialogue, address the concerns of residents and figure out ways to help those who need assistance.

“Where are the gaps? How can we fill those gaps?” Rowe asked. “We want to get laser-focused on this, so we can come up with solutions for them to improve their housing, improve their quality of life.”

Rowe says their efforts could help city workers.

“We actually have some city employees who are woefully underpaid when you think about a living wage,” said Rowe.

The living wage the city will set is still undetermined, but Rowe says the council has Dr. Patton to come up with a salary figure that will help individuals and families.

Dr. Patton says it’ll take a year to put together a full report.

“Once we finish this report and this work through this task force, we will know where every gap is and then have recommendations with solutions with how over the years we will deal with it.”