East Durham, Durham, Police, Poverty, EDCI
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

Editor's note: This story is part of an occasional series on what area community leaders and residents are doing to balance "peace and pride" in their neighborhoods.

Every Friday in the basement of the Maureen Joy Charter School on South Driver Street in Durham, families get a bag of food packed with oatmeal, fruit bars, noodles, tuna, fruit boxes and more.

Small children seated on the floor in front of a teacher.
woodleywonderworks / Flickr

North Carolina ranks 34th in the country for child well-being. That's according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2015 KIDS COUNT Data Book. The annual report evaluates states on economic prosperity, health, education, and family and community. It found one-in-four children in North Carolina lives in poverty.

Tulane Publications via Flickr/Creative Commons

A baby born in Orange County can expect to live to be nearly 82 years old. That's according to health data analysis by the independent children's advocacy group NC Child.

But Research and Data Director Laila Bell says children in poorer counties aren't likely to live as long. A newborn in Rockingham County is unlikely to reach the age of 76.

Joslin Simms, the mother of Ray Simms who was murdered in May of 2005.
Justin Cook / justincookphoto.com/

Durham is a city on the rise. And over the past decade or so, it has established a reputation for its change and rapid development. 

But not far away from the city's booming downtown and repurposed factories  is a part of the city that is dealing with high crime rates and the losses of their young men due to violence and prison.

It is a tale of two cities: one prosperous and open to tourist and transplants, the other isolated and dealing with violence and drugs.

In addition to taking on education initiatives, PAGE encourages girls to produce photography and digital stories.
Madison County Photo Exhibition / carolinapage.org

Rural communities in western North Carolina are in the midst of an economic shift.

The rise and fall of the family farm means places like Madison County are looking for new ways to support themselves. The answer could be in the tech industry. But technology businesses rely on a steady stream of well-educated workers. 

A panel discussion tonight at Duke University, "Rethinking Appalachia," examines ways to develop a high-tech workforce in rural Appalachia.

Photo of Former State of Things Producer Meghan Modafferi and Producer Anita Rao try out sitting on the other side of the glass in "host attire" on Meghan's last day.
Jorge Valencia

As 2014 comes to a close, The State of Things producer Anita Rao takes a look back at some of her favorite segments from the show this year. 

Sitting on the steps with a child soon after I arrived in Durham to work as a community organizer for Operation Breakthrough.

Dr. Howard Fuller has dedicated much of his life’s work to eradicating poverty. His work began in 1965, when he went to Durham to work as a community organizer and helped young African-American students and youth find a voice for themselves in organizations aimed toward ending poverty. 


When Linda Tirado responded to an online forum question: "Why do poor people do things that seem so self destructive?" she had no idea her response would go viral. 

Her essay, Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or poverty thoughts sparked national conversation and backlash. At the time, Tirado was a young mother of two, working two part-time jobs. She had recently returned to college. The essay detailed what her life was like, and how she and her family had reacted to the pressures of being poor.

Here is an excerpt from the essay:

Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6AM, go to school (I have a full courseload, but I only have to go to two in-person classes) then work, then I get the kids, then I pick up my husband, then I have half an hour to change and go to Job 2. I get home from that at around 1230AM, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I'm in bed by 3. This isn't every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr. Martini and see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork. Those nights I'm in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won't be able to stay up the other nights because I'll f*** my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can't afford to be sleepy. I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn't leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn't in the mix.

This essay later inspired a book challenging preconceptions about the lives of the millions of Americans living below the poverty level. 

Winston-Salem City Government has extended benefits to same-sex couples who were married in other states.


The Winston-Salem city government is now offering benefits to same-sex partners who are married. 

About 200 people use services at the IRC (Interactive Resource Center) each weekday.

Glimpses of poverty can be seen across North Carolina on a daily basis. From median strips to emergency rooms and school cafeterias to unemployment offices, no communities are immune.

In Greensboro many people in need use the Interactive Resource Center (IRC) for daily access to computers, showers, and a sense of community. More than 200 people visit the center each weekday.

"I went from $80,000 a year to, I'm lucky if I make $80 a month," says Earl Zayack, a slender man with brown hair and a salty goatee.

"So it was a huge, humbling experience for me."


A new report from the Brookings Institution ranks four North Carolina cities among the top 15 in the country where poverty is soaring fastest: Raleigh, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro-High Point. 

Nathan Winter / Flickr Creative Commons


When children are living in poverty, it can have long-term consequences for their health, education and their own economic status. 

But in many cases, their families don’t have access to social services, or know where to get help. 

A picture of Bill Bell at a podium.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell has set in motion his campaign to reduce poverty. 

Bell said Durham has a lot of resources: good universities, a creative class, and a growing number of jobs. He believes that by using UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies data about distressed neighborhoods, surveying residents, and planning area specific solutions, this push could make a difference.

“Poverty is an issue that I think we should be able to deal with in this community in a much more collaborative way than we're doing now,” said Bell.

Photo: Apples in a farmer's market
Amber Carnes via Flickr

North Carolina lawmakers are looking for ways they can help get fresh fruits and vegetables to corners of the state -- urban and rural -- where they’re difficult to access.

Non-profit organizations and local governments across the country have for years identified areas known as “food deserts” across the country, but the House Committee on Food Desert Zones is the first effort by state lawmakers to address the issue.

Rocky Mount Police http://www.rockymountnc.gov/police/gangawareness.html

Rocky Mount community members and leaders are gathering at Word Tabernacle Church tonight for a public forum. This comes just weeks after four boys were shot on the church basketball court, and another was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Word Tabernacle Church Pastor James Gailliard said the tragedies have been a catalyst for social dialogue. He said he sees people crossing the aisle politically and having constructive discussions about how to combat gang violence, poverty and joblessness in the community.

Photo: Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP called for pickets outside Rose and Maxwell stores, which are owned by the family of state Budget Director Art Pope.
Jorge Valencia

The Rev. William Barber, who led weekly protests this year against laws passed by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, gathered with a few of his supporters Monday outside the state budget office to criticize a man they say supports policies that hurt poor people.

Gene Nichol
UNC Law School

A group of public education, philanthropic and community leaders gathered at UNC-Chapel Hill yesterday to discuss ways to address growing poverty in the state. The conference was titled, "Poverty, Partnerships and the Public Good: A Call for Engagement by North Carolina Institutions."

The discussion was lively. Gene Nichol, Director of UNC’s Poverty Center commenced the group.

“Poverty is by any standard the largest problem that we face in North Carolina," said Nichol.

SalFalko / Flickr Creative Commons

Individuals facing criminal charges are entitled to legal representation even if they are unable to afford attorneys. But what about people facing civil issues like divorce, child custody and medical claims?

There are services that provide legal counsel, such as Legal Aid of North Carolina.  In 2010, Ashley Quiñones became a client of Legal Aid after Medicaid her denied a kidney transplant as she was experiencing renal failure.  Quiñoneschose to appeal the claim and she turned to Legal Aid for help. 

To Right These Wrongs  The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America
UNC Press / uncpress.unc.edu


In 1963, almost a quarter of North Carolinians were living in poverty. 

Governor Terry Sanford and his political associates decided it was time to get creative about building a strategy for eradicating poverty in the state. And with that, the North Carolina Fund was born.  The Fund was a way to sponsor community organizing initiatives in local communities across the state, particularly by getting poor people involved directly.

NC Fund

Community leaders and residents are coming together this week in Durham to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the “North Carolina Fund.”

The “North Carolina Fund” was established by Governor Terry Sanford in 1963.  The idea was to create programs to help address the state’s vast disparities in housing, education and jobs.  It was North Carolina’s “War on Poverty.”

US Census
US Census Bureau

The latest Census report shows North Carolina continues a slow crawl out of the economic downturn.

In 2012, more people lived below the poverty level in North Carolina than they did the year before.  The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows 18% of North Carolinians live in poverty compared to about 16% nationally.

Ed Welniak heads the Income Statistics branch of the Census Bureau.

Raleigh NC
Dave DeWitt

Raleigh is taking more public comment about its food distribution ordinance. 

Monday night's meeting comes nearly a month after police threatened to arrest volunteer groups that were handing out food to the homeless in Moore Square.  A city ordinance prohibits food distribution in public parks without a permit, but at least one group says it had been giving out food on the weekends for six years. 

UNC Center for Civil Rights
UNC Center for Civil Rights

A new report from the UNC Center for Civil Rights highlights the issues faced by some segregated communities in North Carolina.

The report refers to these neighborhoods as “excluded communities.”

“What we’re talking about are communities that are somehow not fully included in the political, social, civic, and economic life of the state of North Carolina,” says Peter Gilbert, the author of the report

Dr. Leslie Smith speaks on the State of Things.

This episode was a rebroadcast.  The program originally aired on Monday, February 25, 2013.

When Leslie Smith was 24 years old, she was in a fire. After spending 3 months at the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, she was released. Smith told Host Frank Stasio “It took me about ten years to recover from those injuries.”