The War on Poverty began half a century ago when President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act fifty years ago this Wednesday. It created the Job Corps, VISTA, and the Community Action program. Another bill signed eleven days later created the Food Stamp program. Medicare and Medicaid came along a year later.
That first act is what led to the nineteen regional Community Action Agencies in Missouri. Executive Director Heather Lockard says those agencies fight poverty at the local level in several ways.
“They provide emergency services to address families that may be in crisis or in a state of emergency. They provide programs like Head Start.. to work with families and prepare children to be ready for kindergarten. They also provide services for weatherization and housing and energy services,” she says.
She thinks Head Start began a movement that later led to programs such as Parents as Teachers, which originated in Missouri, and other early childhood education programs.
Lockard says leaders of the programs find many people are unaware of the services available to them, even after fifty years. She says the recent recession exposed thousands of Missourians who had never needed them before to programs of their Community Action Agencies.
AUDIO: Lockard interview 13:47
Link to weatherization program: http://energy.mo.gov/energy/communities/assistance-programs/low-income-weatherization-assistance-program-(liwap)
Link to Missouri Association for Community Action: http://www.communityaction.org/