Mayor Lori Lightfoot launches new initiative Thursday to address generational, systemic, and racial causes of hardship within Chicago at the Solutions toward Ending Poverty (STEP) Summit.

In a conversation about the legacy of poverty in Chicago with Darryl Holliday, from City Bureau, the Mayor stated how she plans to end poverty in a generation. “Poverty is killing us,” Lightfoot said. “Literally and figuratively killing us. All of us.”

The STEP Summit invited people of influence to have a meaningful conversation on what it means to be in poverty and to analyze the history of how the city got to where it is today. Current census data shows about 22 percent of Chicagoans fall below the Federal Poverty Level, which is an annual income of $26,200 for a family of four, according to federal guidelines.

The Mayor wants to raise the curtain on the city’s lack of resources and fill the void. “The truth is we have experienced population loss in Black Chicago for years,” Lightfoot said. “And now we’re seeing Latino families being pushed out by displacement pressures, while we see a growth in white college-educated residents.

“We did this historically by using government as a tool to create and enforce race-based discrimination that killed, crushed, and systematically reduced the lives of too many over generations,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a press conference in a pledge to erase generational poverty.

The Mayor’s policy is designed to “meet people where they are,” taking things a step further than the common-sense policy changes that the Mayor’s office is already making headway on, like raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2020 and ending the practice of taking people’s driver’s licenses for non-moving violations. The Mayor said we create a safe space for those in economics distress to tell us their needs. “People who understand how Chicago works have never had a chance to engage with the city to decide what the collective could be.”

It appears that housing is going to be a significant push from Mayor Lightfoot. Approximately 25 percent of tenants who are evicted in Chicago are done so without cause, often creating physical and mental stress. The Mayor said she would back a measure mandating “just cause evictions,” preventing landlords from evicting tenants without justification with only 30 days’ notice.

The Mayor also said she would support the Just Housing ordinance. The law would help formerly incarcerated Chicagoans find a place to live when they are released from prison by no longer allowing landlords to run a criminal background check until the person is a confirmed eligible based on their income and credit history.

“Walk with me on this mission of a lifetime,” Mayor Lightfoot asked of the city of Chicago.

 LaToya Wright, Contributing Writer

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