Well over 100 people from across the Capital Region turned out Thursday evening to tell their stories about poverty and the fight against it to a labor-religion commission preparing a statewide support on the issue.
The hearing of the Truth Commission on Poverty in New York State, held at First United Methodist Church on State Street, began with a rousing gospel-style sing-along about standing up to oppression led by Charon Hribar of New York City, and it drew a mix of the poor, young and old, and people who are social activists.
“Three million people live below the poverty line in New York state, and many more are struggling,” said the Rev. Emily McNeill, executive director of the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State, based in Latham. “Poverty is not an aberration or individuals making poor decisions; it is systematic.”
McNeill said Thursday’s hearing was one of three being held around the state, and the only one being held in the Capital Region. One was held in rural Allegany County in June, and another will be held on Long Island in September.
“We definitely wanted to have one in an upstate city, and we’re based in Latham,” O’Neill said. “Schenectady has the highest poverty rate in the Capital Region.”
By the commission’s estimate, about 40 percent of households in the Capital Region struggle financially, meaning poverty is a widespread issue.
Barnett Heglar of Albany was among those giving testimony.
“My basic message is I think they’ve got to do more,” he said before the hearing, when a communal meal was served. “It’s not enough. They’re not putting a dent in poverty.”
He noted that…
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