Almost half of Goldsboro residents earn less than $30,000 a year, and a quarter of them live in poverty. In 2015, the city of about 36,000 people was ranked the fifth poorest in the U.S.
These troubling figures were included in a recent study from the North Carolina Poverty Research Fund. Co-author Gene Nichol presented the report on Wednesday to more than 100 community leaders gathered in the cafeteria at First African Baptist Church in Goldsboro. Following the presentation, a panel of community leaders spoke about possible solutions. In March, a local task force will begin meeting to address poverty in Goldsboro.
Goldsboro, which is about an hour east of Raleigh, struggles with many of the same issues surrounding deep poverty as the state’s major metropolitan areas, such as increasingly concentrated and racialized poverty and a shortage of jobs that pay above minimum wage. Only in Goldsboro, Nichol said, it’s more amplified.
“Goldsboro has those issues – they just have them more powerfully than most parts of the state," he said.
Over the last 16 years, the number of high poverty neighborhoods in Goldsboro has more than doubled. And 70 percent of the city’s black and Latino residents live in these neighborhoods compared to 40 percent of white residents.
When people are stuck in poor neighborhoods, it feeds the cycle of generational poverty, said Anthony Goodson Jr., CEO of Goldsboro's housing authority.
“If you surround yourself by a bunch of people doing wrong, you have the tendency to do wrong,” he said. “If you surround yourself by people in poverty and they don’t see a bigger vision, where do you go?”
The city’s housing authority has started purchasing rental properties in neighborhoods with less poverty and crime to improve the quality of life for families who live in public and subsidized housing, Goodson Jr. said.
“That basically moves our folks automatically in better areas, moves them in better school districts, which then hopefully will improve the quality of education for our children,” he said.
Another organization that aims to break the cycle of poverty in Goldsboro is called WAGES. The non-profit helps people advance their education and secure a higher-paying job, said Patricia Beier, the organization’s executive director.
“Two of the major factors in getting out of poverty are education and employment – but not just any employment, good employment that gives you living wage,” Beier said.
In addition to representatives from non-profit groups and agencies that directly work with poor people, local elected officials and business leaders attended the presentation on poverty in Goldsboro. While it’s necessary that leaders from across the spectrum talk about poverty, Beier said, poor people should be included in these conversations.
“It’s important that we not try to craft a solution based on what our perspective is, but that we bring the people who are dealing with the situation in on the conversation,” she said. “So, that we can have a solution that’s going to work for them.”