Increasing poverty presents difficult future challenges

The Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services is a nonprofit organization. Our mission is to be a private-public partnership to facilitate collaboration to improve the well being of our community. Started more than 15 years ago, the coalition is recognized as an outstanding model for positive community problem solving.

One of the services we offer is the Gwinnett Helpline. Trained and caring volunteers provide information and referrals to callers who need services in all types of areas. In 2005, the Helpline referred more than 25,000 callers to agencies in the area.

Requested needs were in the following areas: rent assistance, homeless shelters, utility bill assistance, housing, food, employment, health care, legal services and many more.

Gwinnett County led the Atlanta region in the net increase in number of people in poverty in the last Census. The calls to the Gwinnett Helpline document this rising trend in our community.

Poverty increase is a concern to health and human service planners because it is a big indicator of poor community health. Poverty issues also place a huge strain on resources that are already strained from the huge growth in population in Gwinnett over the past 25 years. Economic development and stability are key to the success of our community.

The good news is that the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services uses this data and other key indicators to develop goals and strategies to address needs and gaps in services. We include anyone who wants to be involved in our community.

Maybe you don't think you can do anything to address these issues personally because they are too daunting or you don't feel like you have the expertise. Not true. Our best problem solvers are community members who started out feeling that way.

Another way to get involved is through the Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute. More than 300 grass-roots leaders have been trained to help improve their communities. The Institute is an eight-month class that begins in August. We are recruiting diverse community members who would like to learn how to get more involved in their community and make a positive impact. Please check out www.gnli.org for more information and to get an application.

Together we can continue to build a greater Gwinnett. Success does live here. Why not be a part of the solution? Get involved, make a difference. To learn more, check out our Web site at www.gwinnettcoalition.org.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Ellen Gerstein of Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.