PEEKSKILL, N.Y. -- People learned how the other half lived at the Kiley Center in Peekskill Thursday.
The Peekskill Community Action Program, in association with the Westchester Community Opportunity Program and Putnam Community Action Program, hosted "Walk In My Shoes."
The event featured participants learning about what it is like to live in poverty, especially when trying to get to and from work or provide nutritious food for a family. "Walk In My Shoes" was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty.
Forty percent of people aged 26 to 60 live below the poverty line at some point.
"This is a fabulous exercise," Assemblywoman Sandy Galef said. "People often walk in my office who are homeless and you see the agony they go through. We try to give them suggestions, but they are often not receptive."
Galef said the War on Poverty is not to be taken lightly.
"Poverty persists and resists," Galef said. "It cannot be defeated without understanding it. No one is immune and it's difficult to get out of."
Galef said the state has increased its funding to help low income families and voted to increase the minimum wage.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey said many of the programs under the War on Poverty are under attack by Congress.
"Poverty impacts everybody," Lowey said. "It's the people we know, the people we see at the community pool. They can't keep up ."
Lowey criticized Congress for not voting to extend long term unemployment benefits, which impacted 5,050 people in her district. A bill passed the Senate, but has not been called for a vote in the House.
Lowey also criticized Congressman Paul Ryan's proposed budget for cutting Pell Grant funding and funding for food stamps.
"It's absolutely crazy," Lowey said. "It doesn't make sense. Food stamps are a lifeline for these families. We cannot let this happen, we have to fight as hard as we can."
Peekskill Mayor Frank Catalina said the key to getting out of poverty was a high school education.
"Attendance is the key to getting an education," Catalina said. "Peekskill's graduation rate of 68 percent is abysmal. We have to break the cycle of poverty."
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