Christina Bernecker

More than three million people in Ohio are living in poverty, according to Amanda Wurst, spokesperson for Gov. Ted Strickland’s office.

Strickland is working to combat the growing poverty rate, creating a poverty task force and involving the community in his efforts.

Strickland’s task force involves 22 forums spread across the state, where community members gather to discuss and offer solutions to defeat poverty.

“Gov. Strickland signed an executive order in May of 2008 creating the Ohio anti-poverty task force,” she said. “The goal is to develop short-term and long-term strategic recommendations on poverty.”

The task force is a chance for Ohio residents to provide feedback on poverty and according to Wurst, it is an amazing opportunity to be part of this process.

“The task force will focus on offering practical and pragmatic solutions, solutions that come from the community that we can then ensure are enacted,” Wurst said.

Butler County will be included as part of these forums.

The Butler County Planning Committee will hold two Conversations on Poverty; the first at 6 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Middletown Community Center and the second from at 6 p.m. Feb. 10 at First St. John United Church of Christ in Hamilton, Ohio.

Suggestions from these forums will be shared with Strickland’s office Feb. 20.

The Governor and his office plan to have made a substantial impact on the poverty rate by as early as March.

Jeffrey Diver, executive director of Butler County’s Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families, said he is confident in Strickland’s plan.

“Something good has to come out of this,” he said. “We are currently dealing with a large number of families who have never had to ask for help before. There are so many issues facing our economy right now (and) Strickland’s plan involves the people it’s severely affecting. This is an important first step.”

Although Diver said he supports Strickland’s plan, he said there are obstacles Strickland and his office must face before any change can take place.

“Any time you are trying to effect change for a great number of people, you run the risk of upsetting someone­-it’s unavoidable,” Diver said. “With the state of the economy as it is now, no matter what we do, we are in for a lot of pain before it gets better.”