Updated: Practical and Doable Appoaches for Overcoming Salisbury, N.C.’s 25% Poverty

Posted on October 26, 2014

Steve Mensing, Editor

Likely the City of Salisbury, N.C.’s 25% poverty may fluctuate over the next few years. The numbers of poor people living at or below poverty may fluctuate due to the following:

• Middle and upper class urban flight continues in Salisbury which naturally increases the percentage of people living at or below the poverty line. Middle and upper class persons are not settling here because Salisbury’s challenges with:

• Violent crime, property crime (burglaries, breaking and entering homes, buildings, and vehicles), large gang presence, and drugs (Heroin, meth, crack, opioids and alcohol).  City Streets grow increasingly dangerous after dark.

• 25% poverty according to the 2013 U.S. Census estimates for Salisbury. In 2017 not much difference.

• Poor performing public school education. In 2017 the schools rated an abysmal 3 Ds and an F.

• Lack of better jobs in the area, educated youth drain. Many young people leave Salisbury after college and high school for Far better prospects elsewhere.

• The city’s greatly diminished city services. Understaffed city services such as police, fire department, streets departments, and maintenance workers.

• City hall’s highly suspect local government has created a major loss in public confidence.

• Many neighborhoods are suffering from blight and abandoned homes.

The challenges affecting urban flight in Salisbury are not circumstances easily remedied overnight.  They all impact urban flight which in turn impacts the schools, safety, and growing poverty.

Salisbury’s Statistics:


Halting Urban Flight:


What can be done to turn around urban flight and the 25% poverty?  Here are a list of probable solutions and interventions:

Overcoming Crime, Gangs, and Drugs:

Develop “alternatives” to gangs.  Gangs provide affiliation & connection, pride, ways to make money, and protection.  Find constructive alternatives that provide the same thing.  Playground activities, teams, interests, the arts–there are many possible alternatives that can be brought into play.

Safe ways for people to report crime and drug activity.  Anonymous Crime Stoppers hotlines.  Know that it is unsafe to be seen fraternizing with the police in some neighborhoods.  You get perceived as a snitch.

Literacy programs can expand young persons’s interests and get them more involved in education.

Boarding up, demolishing, and watching abandoned and vacant housing.

Improved street lighting and street video monitoring.

Folks need to arm themselves.  Not only does it stop crime and protects homes and familes, it acts as a deterrent to criminal activity.  Alarms, strong locks, and neighborhood safety training reduce the probability of crimes occurring.  All of these activities need to be carried out in Salisbury with its high violent and property crime statistics. Law enforcement can not be expected to be everywhere and quickly.  Self-protection should be the first line of defense.

Hot spot patrolling and foot patrols. Our understaffed police department needs to be beefed up for quality patrolling. Pay increases may help some, but Salisbury is perceived as a dangerous place and unlikely to attract police recruits. Also word is out that a second city manager actually oversees the police and contributes to low morale. People who leave the department allegedly are often blackballed when they seek other employment.

Strong town watch programs. An all-seeing, trained, and vigilant presence can be a major buffer against crime.

A fully staffed police department is required as well as having topflight commanders.  The Salisbury Police are woefully understaffed to meet the rigorous demands of a city under criminal siege.  Perhaps private and corporate donations could be used to fund our second line of defense.  The city’s police pay often isn’t enough to keep newer police here when other urban areas pay more.  Firings, wrongful terminations, and recent hires booking passage elsewhere for higher pay has depleted the Salisbury Police since 2011.  Coverage is minimal at best.

Possible suggestions for improving State Education report card composite scores:

Develop and implement programs for literacy: reading, writing, and practical math skills.  Make certain no children are promoted beyond the 3rd grade unless they can read at that level and can successfully perform 3rd grade math.  Too many youngsters in the Rowan-Salisbury schools get to the 11th and 12th grades who are illiterate and many grades behind in rudimentary math skills.  Being illiterate is a sure way to poverty, a lack of education, joblessness, poor critical reasoning skills, and raises the probability of being criminally involved.

Develop volunteer groups to teach reading and math in afterschool programs.  Public libraries, churches, Tsunami Development Literacy Program at the West End Plaza, and school properties make excellent accessible venues for afterschool reading and math skills training.

Parental education for “Reading Homes” and “Math Homes“.  Being able to read, write, and do math needs to start with the parents.  No adult left behind.

Learning how to learn programs. Teaching youngsters learning how to learn skills and turning them on to what interests and excites them can boost interest in education.  Teaching computer skills early and finding ways to get budget computers and low cost internet into their homes can be an excellent boost to self-learning.

Zero tolerance for gangs, drugs, bullying threats, or assaultive behavior in the schools.  Retention programs that “look the other way” lead to parents removing better students from the schools and in turn lowering state education Report card composite scores.  A lack of zero tolerance for gangs, drugs, threats, and assaultive behavior in schools is the fuel of urban flight for many families concerned about their youngster’s safety. All races are affected in Salisbury.

Develop public Super Schools where the academically gifted and achievement oriented children can attend.  Such schools could siphon away the best and the brightest  students from private schools and home schooling.  These youngsters scores could positively impact Salisbury’s overall public school scores within Salisbury.  Such educational opportunities cut down on urban flight.

Put people back to work through skills training and adult education; classes on small business development to support entrepreneurs; loans and technical assistance for small resident-owned businesses.

Installing a STEM focus in the local school district; expanding enrollment in Early College Programs; and improving adult education opportunities.

Suggestions for lowering poverty:

Education of the chronically poor can help raise their ability to gain better jobs and raise the probability of employment.  See our suggestions for improving the READY composite scores.

Develop superior vocational and trade education in the public schools and at local community colleges.

Development of “cooperative” businesses in poor neighborhoods and neighborhood cooperative urban farming.  Neighborhood entrapaneurs group together to start a businesses.  Employees have skin in the game.

De-annex forcibly annexed poor neighborhoods and the forcibly annexed county prison.  That should slice off a few percentage points of Salisbury’s 25% poverty.

While it would be bad form to deprive the elderly, children and the disabled of affordable housing and requirements for basic living, should we make Salisbury more attractive to our more able-bodied poor though special entitlement programs and special housing projects?  When we become that “shining beacon on the hill” for the poor–we add to our mounting poverty rate.  Be there for the people who really need it. Be there with adult education initiatives to lift up our neighborhoods.

Develop specific job trainings that could be implemented in area colleges and universities.

Increase parental engagement. Develop parental training skills classes and find ways to get people more involved.

Creating Economic Growth and Jobs in Salisbury through Paying attention to Business and Retail Trends. Can Salisbury Become the Starting Point of a New Business and Retail Trends?

What are business and retail trends? An example of a current business trend is that much commerce and retail is currently done over the internet and through dot.coms. Look at how Amazon.com rules the retail roost and how all the other major retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and many others have developed major internet presences. Its a fact many people living here buy products and services over the internet. Now a need for local warehouses to support same day delivery. Obviously Salisbury and Rowan County would benefit from luring warehouses here to fill the void for same day service. We have many empty buildings that might serve as warehouses and distribution centers.

Spend some time dedicating some study to note what current business and retail trends are occurring right now. Even discover future forecasts for business and retail trends both here and globally. And if you are given to creativity and thoughtfulness, ask what current and future needs might be met by developing new businesses and retail. Make certain these are actual needs.

Educating the Poor

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Lao Tzu

Its pretty much accepted that educated individuals are less likely to fall in poverty. Its also a given that illiterate persons are destined for poverty. Further if a youngster can’t read, write, or do math at a third grade level by the time they leave the third grade, they will face major trouble throughout their time in school. To assist folks in transitioning out of poverty, great efforts better be made to teach literacy and math to youngsters during the first three grades of school. Adult literacy and math can be taught by voluntary organizations. Tsunami Development Literacy Program, literacy initiatives, churches, public libraries, websites, and schools can assist in bringing literacy and math education to the adult poor. One such example:


After the adults master reading, writing, and math they can obtain G.E.D.s and go on to community colleges to further their academic pursuits or take up vocational training. The first doorway is literacy and basic math skills.

How Small Cities Climb Out of Poverty

Here is a sampling of what other impoverished cities did to lift themselves out of poverty or at least slow its gains:

A very important turning point can begin when the “powers that be” acknowledge and accept their city is impoverished and they need operate differently.  An inventory of what is not working and what actually works needs to be made.  No sugar coating–no denial.  Like an alcoholic or drug addict hitting rock bottom, a hard and painful acceptance of the facts needs to be made.

• A complete overhaul of a city government’s failed approaches are a necessity.  When cities belly up or fall into poverty, like Stockton, California, Detroit, Michigan, and Camden, N.J. the local governments are traditionally swept out of office.

When a city gets behind the 8-ball and can no longer effectively recruit needed business and retail because of their crime, poverty, and education statistics, it falls into a dead zone.  Salisbury needs to develop its own entrapaneurs and businesses along with any business recruiting they can pull off.  Economic development and the jobs and tax base they create will be discussed next.

Neighborhood Cooperative Startups.  Folks in poor neighborhoods or any neighborhood in urban areas have banded together to start community “cooperative” businesses. All share in the work and the profits.  Basically your stakeholders are the workers.  These grassroots cooperatives can grow, eventually prosper, and add to a city’s tax base.  The more cooperatives, the more jobs.  Inch by inch the city’s poverty statistics can be lowered and the city may once again attract business and retail.




Urban Farming.  Urban farming possesses a large upside as long as it does not depend on government grants.  A need exists for fresh organic and non GMO local food.  Salisbury has plenty of neighborhood areas and wastelands that could be converted to urban farmland.  The rise of urban farming can be witnessed in Detroit (Supermarkets left when pilferage outdistanced sales), Chicago, and Newark, N.J.

Development of Duty Free ports to attract retail.  Small areas of the city can develop new retail and shopping areas with a 5 year suspension of various taxes to attract both businesses and shoppers.  The more businesses–the more jobs–the more the poverty rate falls.

Recruit satellite campuses for online major universities like Phoenix University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.  More students are getting their accredited degrees and course work on line.  Some will require to meet with advisors and take monitored testing.  Plenty of empty office space downtown.

Change destructive traffic patterns and improve traffic lights that irritate drivers and makes them even more unlikely to drive downtown and to major chain store shopping areas.  Innes Street requires a major overhaul in its traffic congestion.  Traffic calming would be devastating to the area.

Downtown requires more parking lots.  It is very inconvenient to park downtown.  Often merchants fill up the limited street parking. Parking lots are a requirement.

Focus on online retail and its major impact on shopping in general.  More and more folks are shopping on the internet with its far cheaper prices, great selection, and convenience.  Amazon rules the retail waves.  Consider warehouses and distribution centers to support online retail for same day delivery.  Many empty buildings can be retrofitted to serve as warehouses and distribution centers.

Building and recruiting attractions that might lure people to Salisbury.  Either create cooperatively run attractions to lure families into Salisbury or recruit attractions like Concord Mill’s new aquarium or Huntersville “Discovery Place”.  Consider The Museum of the Poor–Salisbury’s Criminal Justice Hall of Fame–Salisbury Art Museum–Rebuilding of the Confederate Prison to draw visitors and jobs like Colonial Williamsburg.  Hundreds of attractive projects spring to mind.

Offer rewards for blowing the whistle on local government corruption.  Often as unwatched governments age and calcify, white collar crime appears.  Bribery, rigged bids, vendettas, extortion, and embezzlement are not only harmful to the taxpayers, it thwarts economic development and blocks jobs.  Major whistleblower rewards and bounties should be offered for the arrest, conviction, and imprisonment of white collar government criminals.

End the overreach of city organizations who construct codes that strangle business growth.  Trying to set up shop here is often thwarted by organizations arm-in-arm with downtown merchants to keep a local monopoly in power.

Develop town watches and para police groups to support understaffed police and fire departments.  Develop training for self and home protection.

Make certain that strong anti-illiteracy programs are available.    Reading programs need to be carried on by volunteers in churches, after-school programs, senior centers, community colleges, and public libraries.  It must be far larger in scope than what is currently in place.

Creating a Solutions Approach and Noticing What Works: The Multi-Solutions Generator:


Know that “Practical and Doable Appoaches for Overcoming Salisbury, N.C.’s 25% Poverty” is a work in progress and will be updated and enhanced.

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