Rural poverty: “It’s a significant challenge”

Earlier this month, LCD Group Executive Director Brent Ekstrom traveled to Knoxville, Tenneseee to attend NeighborWorks America Rural Membership Conference, ‘Reclaiming Appalachia: Investing in Community, Cooperation and Change.’

NeighborWorks America network organizations from across the United States came together to discuss transformative solutions to addressing persistent poverty, which is an enduring problem throughout rural America.

Geographic isolation, lack of resources and economic opportunities, and disinvestment have contributed to high – and in some areas, increasing – levels of rural poverty. While poverty rates are highest in the American South, persistent rural poverty is found across the United States. North Dakota is no exception.
“Many North Dakotans don’t see, and some refuse to accept, the unpleasant truth that rural poverty is an issue here,” says Ekstrom. “For many small towns, it is a significant challenge that has only grown in recent years with population increases and the cost of living increasing for many in western North Dakota due to the energy boom.” 

Ekstrom notes the lack of affordable housing is major contributing factor to rural poverty.

“Rural communities are hit with a one-two punch. Many of the available homes are old and in need of large-scale repairs, while the homes that are updated and relatively new are often priced too high for many small town residents living on fixed budgets.”

LCD Group, the only NeighborWorks America affiliate in North Dakota, offers a range of programs to assist communities and individuals in meeting affordable housing challenges. In recent years, LCD Group has created collaborative partnerships with Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota and the Missouri Slope Areawide United Way to bring about creative solutions to the issue.

“Partnerships are key to our work as an organization but also essential to tackling rural poverty,” adds Ekstrom.

“If there were a silver bullet to this issue, it would have been used by now. There isn’t one and the challenge is growing, so communities and organizations have to be innovative in trying to mitigate poverty’s impact. That’s why Lewis & Clark Development Group is working as a catalyst to help communities meet the issue head on.”

ALSO: By the Numbers: Poverty in North Dakota

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