Over 50 years of Community Action
On January 8, 1964, United States President Lyndon B Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” in his State of the Union Address. “This administration today here and now declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join me in that effort.” The president stated that although poverty is a national problem (requiring national organization and support), in order for solutions to be effective it had to be organized at the State and local level.
On March 16, 1965 President Johnson called for an act in his Special Message to Congress. The Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1964 was passed, as part of his proposal and was drafted in February that year by former Peace Corps founding director Robert Sargent Shriver. Shriver would go on to become the first director of the newly formed Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO).This proposal would also create the Job Corps, Work-Training, Work Study programs, legal services, Head Start, and Community Action Program (CAP).The local Community Action Program were carried out by local Community Action Agency (CAA), in a nationwide Community Action Network. The EOA established over a thousand CAA’s, and varied between local private and public agencies, consisting of nonprofit groups, city agencies, and community-controlled groups. In 1964 the poverty rate in America was at 19 percent. In 1973 with the War of Poverty and all its initiatives in full effect, less than 10 years after the poverty rate for America had dropped down to 11.1 percent.
To this day, Community Action Agencies continues to help millions of hard working Americans daily to combat poverty. Annually, Community Action Agencies in Rhode Island provides program and services to more than 200,000 individuals, families, and seniors. For over 50 years, Community Action Agencies have advocated for limited-income citizens without a voice, so they may enter the middle class and reach for the American dream. The Rhode Island Community Action Association (RICAA) is committed to empowering individuals, families, and communities to help themselves, and continue to be steadfast in our commitment to: “Helping People, Changing Lives.”