'These are big issues:' Billboards removed after message about poverty sparks controversy

Billboards in Milwaukee that targeted people living in poverty were taken down after some say the message was inappropriate. However, the group behind the billboards is defending the controversial images.

There were four billboards throughout the city with the same message that have all since been replaced with an inspirational message about courage.

Finish school, take any job, get married. That was the billboard message from the group "Urban Cure" for Milwaukee residents living in poverty.

"These are big issues. These are systemic issues," said Amber Flanagan Kinlow. "I felt like it was an attack and not the way to solve the problem."

Flanagan Kinlow saw the billboards go up on Tuesday, Aug. 19 and quickly documented each location that they appeared.

Billboard put up in Milwaukee by Urban Cure

Billboard put up in Milwaukee by Urban Cure

Within 24 hours, the billboards came down. Clear Channel, the company that owns the advertising space, told FOX6 News, in part:

"This ad did not receive proper approvals, lacked appropriate attribution and was promptly removed. We value our neighbors for bringing this to our attention."

FOX6 News spoke with William Allen, Urban Cure's COO, before the billboards were removed on Wednesday. Allen described his group as a "think tank" based out of Washington D.C. and tied to an extensive clergy network throughout the country.

"It has always been the message parents have given -- of course, parents give it in the home and privately," said Allen.

Allen said the non-profit purchased the same two billboards in the Minneapolis and Philadelphia markets. He said the message is not political, and not timed for the Democratic National Convention.

Flanagan Kinlow said she is glad that the billboards came down quickly and hopes more attention is given to the complex issue of poverty.

"There are jobs that aren't paying living wages and saying things like 'get married' as if being married walks you out of poverty, or a lifeline to wealth, is completely incorrect," she said.

Urban Cure could not say which local churches it is affiliated with. Allen said the organization is funded through donations.