Commentary: Finding a way forward on Casino Road

To help the Everett neighborhood’s residents out of poverty, provide them skills and resources they need.

By Janeka Downer and Paige Linton / For The Herald

Everett’s Casino Road has the highest rate of poverty in all of Snohomish County.

According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, the residents of this community have an income that is 72 percent lower than other U.S. residents, and a staggering 40 percent of the children live below the poverty line. These numbers are outrageous. In a country that boasts about having numerous opportunities where anyone can “make it,” somehow along the way the residents of Casino Road have fallen by the wayside, and are barely surviving.

Poverty and homelessness are major issues plaguing many American communities. Casino Road is an urban community with a moderately diverse population. When one thinks of communities such as Casino Road, one can’t help but wonder: Are there initiative or programs available to help alleviate these burdens? Are there community projects and resources that are easily accessible, and if so, are they being utilized? There are so many questions that arise when looking at the statistics as time progresses. Has the poverty rate increased as time has passed?

The Washington State Community Action Partnership (WSCAP) is one organization created to provide support to communities and serve families across the state. This nonprofit organization can help with housing and employment assistance, as well as food and nutritional programs and children and youth services.

WSCAP was born out of the Community Action Partnership that was created by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 as a national anti-poverty program. The Washington state Department of Social and Health Services helps with basic living needs like food, medical care and housing assistance. The aforementioned organizations are great resources for the residents of Casino Road, but as a community of 2,802 residents, according to the Census Reporter, why is the poverty rate still so high?

Connect Casino Road (formerly Casino Road Initiative) is active in the community, working to provide positive change and resources for the residents. It offers free English as a second language and Spanish language GED classes to parents, which could contribute to their education and equip them with skills to be successful in jobs. And it provides early childhood education to children while their parents are in classes.

Connect Casino Road also started a youth soccer program that helps provide a safe activity for kids, keeping them off the streets and out of potentially dangerous situations. The program is family focused, and is geared toward supporting the families and providing resources to help them be successful, resources and skills that can be passed on to their children in an attempt to end intergenerational poverty.

In order to decrease the poverty rate and fight homelessness, a group or class should be created, where leaders and other members of the community act as a board, addressing what is happening in the community and collaborating on potential solutions. That way the residents are involved and have a voice as to what’s happening, and have a platform from which to give their perspective since they are being affected the most. The board could then go to their city council members or elected officials and voice their issues and concerns and propose ways to alleviate it.

Possible solutions to helping people get out of poverty include more accessible job training in Casino Road, training in computer skills and reading, writing skills and easier access to reliable public transportation.

Possible ways to cut down on homelessness include creating affordable and safe housing, temporary housing shelters that would have resources like mental health services, substance abuse programs and job training opportunities. In order to tie these resources together the board members of the community would hold a monthly “showcase,” to highlight what is available and encourage the residents to take advantage of what is being cultivated for them to ensure their success.

The answer to alleviating poverty in this community lies within the very people that live there; their desire to see a stronger Casino Road will propel them forward if given the opportunity.

Janeka Downer works in Everett and is studying to earn a master’s degree in social work through the University of Southern California’s online program.

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