Truth Commission on Poverty in New York State

Despite New York’s reputation as a progressive bastion, racial and economic injustice continue to devastate and divide communities across the state. New York perennially has the highest income inequality in the nation. Immense wealth is concentrated in the New York City area, but more than 3 million New Yorkers live below the federal poverty line, and millions more struggle to make ends meet. Child poverty has reached a crisis level particularly in upstate New York, where more than half of children in Rochester and Buffalo and over 40 percent of children in Binghamton, Utica, Syracuse, Schenectady, Troy and Niagara Falls are poor. Poverty in our state continues to be highly racialized. Families with a black head-of-household are twice as likely and Latino-headed families are two-and-a-half times more likely to be low-income than white-headed households. In addition, Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo all rank in the top 10 U.S. metro areas with the highest concentration of black and Latino poverty. This gross racial and economic inequality present an urgent moral crisis that calls for a statewide response.

The Truth Commission on Poverty in New York State will seek to shine a light on these realities and - most importantly - the leadership and insight of those directly impacted by them. This project is part of a national Truth Commission on the Right Not to Be Poor, organized as part of the Call for a New Poor People’s Campaign. Four Truth Commission events are planned in 2017:

  • Neighborhood Check-In: Southern Tier, June 1, Cuba Cultural Center, Cuba, NY

  • Capital Region Truth Commission, July 13, Schenectady, NY (Location TBD)

  • Long Island Truth Commission, September 12, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish Hall, Wyandanch, NY

  • Regional Poor People's Campaign Revival, October 16-18, Binghamton, NY: The findings of the statewide truth commission will be presented as part of this statewide gathering with Rev. Dr. William Barber and the New Poor People's Campaign. 

Each event will feature testimony from people directly impacted by poverty and related injustices, direct service providers, advocates, faith or other community leaders, and academics or other experts. Testimony will address:

  • The material conditions of poverty and related injustices in these communities, and their impact on people and the community at large.

  • The abundance of resources that exist that could address these crises.

  • Our values (both faith-based and democratic) and their relationship to the current reality.

  • The leadership, organizing, resistance and resilience that already exist in directly impacted communities.

Goals of the Truth Commission on Poverty in New York State:

  • To raise public awareness of ongoing injustices in New York communities - both their root causes and potential solutions.

  • To develop stronger relationships and a commitment to collaboration/solidarity among anti-poverty leaders in diverse parts of our state.

  • To support existing local efforts to organize and advocate against poverty.

Partnering Organizations (list in formation)


Citizen Action of New York - Capital District Chapter

Cuba Cultural Center

Fiscal Policy Institute

FOCUS Churches of Albany

Food Not Bombs - Albany

Kairos Center for Rights, Religions and Social Justice

Long Island Progressive Coalition

Long Island Jobs with Justice

Long Island Cares

Long Island Council of Churches

New York State United Teachers

Rural Migrant Ministries

St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry