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A City Steps Up: Savannah Confronts Poverty

Savannah is trying to help Jocelyn Jennings' family out of poverty using a holistic approach.
Neva Grant, NPR
Savannah is trying to help Jocelyn Jennings' family out of poverty using a holistic approach.

Savannah, Ga., is one of the oldest and loveliest cities in America. Called "the Little Easy" for its charming historic district and hospitality, Savannah nonetheless grapples with stubborn poverty and crime higher than that of many larger cities.

Easing poverty is a mainstay of the city's agenda. The mayor says the city can't solve its problems unless government, businesses and low-income residents all cooperate to confront the entrenched reasons for poverty.

Each month, the city sponsors "poverty simulations" to raise awareness among its citizens. Government leaders, heads of businesses and civic groups spend an evening role-playing as people living in, or on the brink of, poverty.

The experience has inspired some participants to join the city's anti-poverty effort, called "STEP UP." Currently, volunteers are working with the city to address the needs of 25 impoverished families in an integrated way. That means addressing health and day care needs, job training and transportation.

The city intends for STEP UP to act as a model for serving dozens -- and perhaps hundreds -- of poor families in coming years.

This is the first installment in which NPR visits places in America that are helping people fight persistent poverty in a wealthy nation.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.