How We’re Fighting Local Disparities
Notes from PPL President & CEO Paul Williams
The numbers are in, and they don’t look good for all of us.
A recent reading of one of the area’s Sunday papers revealed just how deeply our community is struggling with issues of racial disparity. Several areas were discussed, including a front page story detailing the large and growing income gap between area whites and African Americans, confirmed by recent census data.
From 2013 to 2014, median income remained steady for all Minnesota households but fell 14 percent for African Americans. The poverty rate increased five points to 38 percent for our African American community. While the local unemployment rate is only 4 percent—one of the lowest in the nation—it’s over 15 percent for African Americans in Minnesota, making it the largest such disparity in the country. And many other gaps remain.
The paper’s editorial board (yet again) sounded the alarm for the community and its leaders to act on these matters, warning that failure to do so will cost us in the coming years.
These disparities aren’t just statistics to us at PPL—they’re fuel for our mission because they represent many of the people that we serve. Over 85 percent of our residents and program participants come from communities of color, particularly African American and Somali immigrant communities. Their dreams aren’t different than any of ours, but their way forward presents far more challenges. At PPL, we confront these disparities on a daily basis and, with your support and partnership, we’re helping folks overcome the barriers that create these disparities to deliver real results that make a difference in their lives.
The paper also pointed to important solutions to the disparities problem, several of which PPL is at the forefront of.
- We help close the income gap by offering stable rental housing, often seeing how the security of PPL housing is a catalyst for residents to find and keep a decent job.
- We’re closing the homeownership gap between whites and communities of color by creating more homeownership opportunities across those communities.
- We’re also helping close the unemployment gap with culturally-sensitive employment training programs that are linked to local employers with immediate hiring needs for high-demand jobs.
- And we’re closing the academic achievement gap through afterschool programs that increase literacy skills and alternative school programs that helped 50 kids graduate last year—kids that were not successful in the mainstream school system and were potential dropouts.
There’s a tremendous amount of work to do in this community to reduce the disparities that are so prevalent between our white population and our communities of color. I am proud that PPL is at the forefront of tackling those issues—one individual, one family, one home and one community at a time—and thankful that you have joined us in this work.