Challenges Facing Impoverished Communities

In the past few decades multiple factors have sent the neighborhoods surrounding the Citrus Bowl into decline. The issues that these communities have faced are not unlike many of the issues that other marginalized communities face. Stories of consistent poverty, ineffective charity and the looming presence of gentrification echo throughout these communities.

Here in Orlando, organizations are working to find solutions to these issues and help these neighborhoods. While there are a myriad of problems to discuss, there are four primary challenges facing impoverished communities.

The Problem of Concentrated Poverty

In the inner city, especially in the South, the problem of concentrated poverty is the fruit of our history of segregation. During segregation, African-Americans were cut off from opportunity. It is a terrible mark on the history of America and it provided a unique lens in which the communities operated.

Within segregated communities, it was normal for maids, mechanics, lawyers and doctors to all live on the same street. The segregated communities provided a mix of different economic statuses and education levels. This rich variety of residents communicated that, while opportunity was limited, it was possible to achieve success in life.

Once desegregation took place, many educated individuals and business owners left their neighborhoods. Where there had once been a multitude of social perspectives, economic opportunities and cultural backgrounds, there was now only a limited window of understanding. The neighborhoods became a prison for families who could not leave.

The situation is now so severe that it has become nearly impossible for change to take place for citizens who live in impoverished areas.

Generational Poverty

This lack of opportunity proved devastating for generations to come. Children grew up seeing a world on television that represented something they felt they could never achieve. Without doctors, lawyers, business owners and educators in their community to inspire them, it became harder and harder for them to envision a future without poverty.

Generational poverty is used to identify families whose condition of long-time poverty goes back for at least two generations.

This type of poverty demeans populations and robs them of the dignity of life so many communities are afforded. It is a cycle that is incredibly complex and difficult to stop once it is in full effect.  Factors like extremely young mothers, lack of extended familial support systems and generations of dependence on welfare have created legacies of poverty within marginalized communities.

Toxic Charity

Between 2006 and 2009, a massive study was done in the city of Orlando to examine the impact of charities in the city. The study, Seeking the Welfare of the City, evaluated the over 3,600 nonprofits in the metro-Orlando area and the impact they were having. The study brought about good news and bad news. The good news was that Orlando had an amazing culture of service. The bad news was that the city consistently ranked low on Gallup’s Well-Being Index.

Three years after the survey was completed, Bob Lupton released the book “Toxic Charity”. In the book, Lupton revealed that America’s giving was almost entirely focused on crisis situations. By focusing only on crisis matters, charitable organizations were missing foundational issues that were causing the crisis situations.

Applying crisis situations to chronic problems, only made the problems worse. Without knowing it, charities were working against the poor by providing the very services that kept them in crisis. With crisis situations being applied to long-term poverty, the poor were getting further entrenched in broken systems and were developing entitlements that made it nearly impossible for them to leave their situation.


The phenomena of gentrification is transforming our cities. In gentrification, investors go into impoverished communities and pour funds into redeveloping it. With the redevelopment comes new, wealthier residents. This influx of new neighbors results in increased rent and property values as well as change in the neighborhood’s character and culture. The term, gentrification, is often used negatively, suggesting the displacement of the impoverished communities by rich outsiders.

It’s a complex issue and its impact varies from community to community. Many aspects of the gentrification process, such as decreased crime and increased economic activity, are desirable, but are often enjoyed most by the new arrivals. Longtime residents can find themselves economically and socially marginalized.

The difficulty in moving forward in the age of gentrification is understanding how to leverage the economic values it brings forth while keeping communities intact. The goal is to use gentrification as an economic driver, but on the terms of the existing community. In leveraging gentrification, organizations are trying to get one step ahead of poverty and use the resources brought by gentrification to empower the community.

The Future of these Neighborhoods

Business, civic and community leaders are working hard to create great solutions to the problems communities like those around the Citrus Bowl are facing. By focusing on systemic issues through the framework of collective impact, organizations throughout Orlando are coming together under a common banner.

The neighborhoods between surrounding the Citrus Bowl, specifically those between Parramore and Washington Shores, have rich histories. They’ve existed as a sign of people who worked their way past oppression and established their own middle class. These neighborhoods set national trends and brought about new freedom for African Americans during the age of segregation.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be diving further into the history of these neighborhoods and sharing four great solutions to the problems impoverished communities are facing. To stay up to date, sign up for our newsletter. We’ll let you know about new work being done, future educational meetings and any new information surrounding these ideas.