As last year came to a close, the lives of 6 young children and 3 women were snuffed out in a poverty-related house fire in Starkville, MS, in what is described as the worst house fire in Mississippi's history.
Dismayed, HEAR US launched a petition campaign to Mayor Parker Wiseman, the newly-elected young leader of this small town. And, in a mid-February follow-up visit with the Mayor and Alderwoman Sandra Sistrunk, whose 2nd Ward is where the tragedy occured, HEAR US' Diane Nilan was heartened to find that the Mayor and community took the challenge to examine what safety net--or gaps--exist.
This petition thanks the Mayor and the community, and:
> urges a strong local follow-up on his commitment to evaluate and strengthen the safety net;
> encourages the Mayor to inquire of the US Conference of Mayors on how other communities address these concerns (possibly exploring this topic at a USCM conference); and
> bring this issue to the attention of state and federal legislators.
Although these 9 people's lives cannot be restored, this tragedy may serve as a catalyst to prevent similar poverty-related tragedies.
Perhaps Starkville can become the model for examining your community's ability to care for families living in poverty. Bringing together agency representatives whose mission is to assist families struggling with poverty is an encouraging first step.
Will you also include these actions in your efforts? We ask that you:
> Continue vigilance of the local safety net, asking feedback from families experiencing poverty.
> Increase awareness of members of your local community on the local impact of poverty and homelessness.
> Bring these issues to the attention of state and federal representatives, asking for increased resources to prevent further tragedies.
> Challenge the US Conference of Mayors to examine the issue of local responses to poverty and how communities can strengthen the safety net and prevent similar tragedies.