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Challenges outlined by firm; Important to protect children, advocates tell Rotary

The following article, written by Mike Sigov, appeared January 24, 2017 in The Blade. ABLE Director of Advocacy, Aneel Chablani, speaks to the Rotary Club of Toledo. Read the article below or view on The Blade's website.

An Advocates for Basic Legal Equality representative called on Rotary Club of Toledo members Monday for help fighting poverty in the inner city and other less privileged communities.

"It is critical that we identify the areas where we can have the most impact ... and then [act] through changing social and economic conditions and legal interventions," said Aneel Chablani, ABLE's director of advocacy. "That's also work that can be adopted through community leadership organizations like Rotary."

Mr. Chablani told about 200 Rotary members at the club's noon luncheon in the Park Inn ballroom that it is important to focus those poverty-fighting efforts on critical issues such as pediatric chronic asthma and children's exposure to lead.

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc. bills itself as a "nonprofit regional law firm that provides high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity," according its website.

"I think it is safe to assume that in this room we have leadership, we have partnerships in each of these social and economic fields," Mr. Chablani said. "And there are ways for each of us to contribute to this in a similar process that we use at ABLE.

"As people who exist in systems that create opportunity and create privilege — and we benefit from that — it is our responsibility within those systems to understand how those same systems can present barriers, can exist with structural inequities that prevent people in poverty, that prevent underrepresented groups from accessing the opportunity and the privilege that is enjoyed by people in this room," he said.

Titled "Systemic Advocacy Approach to Advancing Equality and Justice," the speech — an overview of the poverty law firm's work — ended with an appeal for help, evoking an immediate response from the Rotary members.

"You gave an outstanding presentation, the one which I hope challenges all the Rotarians to think how they can work on some of the influences that you have suggested," said Hugh Grefe, who took office Jan. 1 as chairman of Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority's board of commissioners.

"It is not a source of pride for Toledo to know that all of the data that comes back in comparing Toledo to other cities in our country, including other Midwestern cities, suggest that we rank very high on the concentration of poverty, very disparate on income, and also on the concentrations of race as it relates to housing," Mr. Grefe said, listing those as issues he plans to address as board chairman.