Unpacking the Census - Five Years Later

The City’s Office of Community Wealth Building joined Initiatives of Change/Hope in the Cities, and the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities today to host a public forum to mark five years since the launch of the “Unpacking the Census” program, acknowledge the progress that has been made, and mobilize community vision and action for the future. More than 150 community leaders attended the event in which Mayor Dwight C. Jones detailed the City’s poverty reduction efforts, and Henrico County Board of Supervisors Chair Tyrone Nelson and Chesterfield County School Board Carrie Coyner detailed specific poverty reduction actions their localities are undertaking. Dr. John Moeser, Senior Fellow at the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond, provided an update on poverty growth in the region and Dr. Thad Williamson, Director of the City’s Office of Community Wealth Building detailed accomplishments and specific strategies being employed by the department.

Five years ago, during the “Unpacking the Census” event, Mayor Jones announced the formation of the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission. The Commission, consisting of about 50 civic leaders and residents from diverse backgrounds, was given the herculean task of working together to not only understand poverty in Richmond, but to develop realistic strategies for serious change. The work of that Commission, the work of the subsequent Maggie L. Walker Initiative for Expanding Opportunity and Fighting Poverty, and the work of many members of the City Administration culminated in the formation of the City’s Office of Community Wealth Building.

The Office of Community Wealth Building worked within the Human Services portfolio until City Council voted to make it a permanent department within City government. This action ensures the city will have a coordinated approach to employment, housing, and education through effective collaboration within City government and with partner agencies such as Richmond Public Schools, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, GRTC, as well as with local nonprofit organizations, philanthropic entities, business sector and universities. The office has already been recognized nationally as a promising model for implementing a holistic approach to poverty reduction working across all the key sectors—employment, housing and education.

“The work undertaken by the Office of Community Wealth Building and our partners has the potential to change this city—as well as our metropolitan area and the Commonwealth of Virginia itself,” said Mayor Jones. “Richmond is a resurgent city, but it is not yet a city in which everyone is thriving. One quarter of Richmond lives in poverty and that includes two out of every five children. We all need to understand that this is no accident—it’s the result of policy decisions made generations ago to cement in place the patterns of segregation that have defined our city’s history for so long.”

For a complete detail of the Office of Community Wealth Building’s primary functions and current activities, please click here.