Groups are working to end the cycle of poverty in Memphis

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What's working when it comes to addressing poverty in Memphis?

WREG's Richard Ransom looked into specific programs that are actually achieving results.

What's working when in comes to poverty in Memphis?

Operation Hope is an organization based in Los Angeles whose goal is to give people financial dignity.

It has proven track record in other cities, and some big names behind it here are hoping to have an impact.

"It's a neighborhood based model, so that it's convenient and comfortable, and it feels safe for people to go take part in these programs in their own neighborhoods," said Kim Cherry with First Tennessee Bank.

Along with Sun Trust Bank, it is providing branch banks where people can sign up for free workshops to help with credit counseling and money management.

The focus is on increasing the average credit score from 130 points, to the 700 range, where the debt spiral starts to unwind.

"It's not only about credit," Cherry said. "It's also about access to jobs and insurance rates and all the other kinds of things that affect not only your finances but your ability to earn money "

It's not as easy finding what's working in regard to family planning.

Everyone wants to end the cycle of 'babies having babies.'

However, folks in the trenches will tell you the problem is getting grown-ups to even acknowledge teens are sexually active.

"All the adults involved around these teens are worried for good reasons, but the cost of not educating young people and connecting them to birth control is teen pregnancy. I think we all agree at this point the cost is too high," said Elokin Capece with Memphis Teen Vision or 'MemTV,' an organization that goes straight to the teenager. Capece said, "It's easy to blame a teen. It's easy to blame the parent of a teen. It's harder to blame our systems. But actually, that's where the blame needs to fall."

MemTV was started seven years ago in collaboration with other community organizations such as Le Bonheur Children's Hospital, Planned Parenthood and Step Ahead.

Because those organizations pay for it, they are able to reach out to kids about birth control, despite tough state laws regulating what public schools and teachers can say.

It's starting to make a difference, but not as much as Capece would like, "If we were there (other cities having more success battling teen pregnancy rates), we'd have comprehensive sex education in schools. Community groups wouldn't have to come in and do it. It would just be done in health class as a normal part of what young people need to know."

MemTV is having the most success counseling young teen mothers on how to avoid a second pregnancy, but Capece holds out hope Memphis will soon follow the lead of cities like Milwaukee and Denver, who are seeing dramatic drops in the problem by giving teens access to long-acting contraception.

When it comes to what's working with jobs, look no further than the Family Promise organization.

Founded almost 20 years ago, it's now a lot more than just an emergency shelter.

These days it gives families a leg-up if they're looking for work.

Amy Barnes, with Family Promise told us, "We have a food pantry for the homeless. We have a furniture donation program, that when families successfully graduate our program, they can graduate into housing with a house full of furniture."

Housed in churches around the city, Sunday school classrooms are turned into bedrooms, providing badly needed structure.

"When you're in the program our families usually have a 5:30 wake up call with a 6:30 departure. We have a 15 passenger van that takes all the children to their own schools. We make sure that if a family has been displaced and they've lost their housing, they're not going to lose the stability of their school with their teachers and their friends."

In the end, organizers say it makes for a much easier path to get back on track when the chips are down.

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