Perpetuating Poverty

Opinion

   on January 03 2013 3:46 PM
At Issue: Poverty in America
In the United States, 1 in 15 people now live in extreme poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. REUTERS

You would hope that with a new year, the bad things that occurred in our country would be wiped out, but homelessness, poverty, recession (to name a few) remains. We still wake up in 2013 with the same issues of the previous year.

Is there any hope in sight?

Well, according to the U.S. Census, the official poverty rate was 15 percent in 2011. There were 46 million people in poverty. Mississippi was at 20.8 percent, New Mexico was 19.7 percent, Louisiana was 18.2 percent, South Carolina was 17.7 percent and Arizona came in at 17.6 percent.

To add more heartache, the poverty rate for children under age 18 was 21.9 percent across the country, with 32 percent of children in poverty in Mississippi, 31 percent in New Mexico and 29 percent in Louisiana.

Talking about our kids, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that the number of working youth dropped by almost half since 2000; employment among young people is at the lowest level since the 1950s. Nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young adults are neither in school nor in the workforce, which will lead to chronic underemployment as adults and failure to gain the skills employers will need in the coming years.

This just feeds the cycle of people becoming more taxpayer costs, considering our government spending will spend more to support them. When you consider that 20 percent, or 1.4 million, of these youths have children of their own, the cycle accelerates, perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of poverty.

The dire consequence of poverty is homelessness.

There are 633,782 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the U.S., the National Alliance to End Homelessness reported. Of that number, 239,403 are people in families, and 392,945 are individuals. About 10 percent of the homeless population, or 62,619, are veterans. During the year, 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness. On any given night, 23 percent of people experiencing homelessness is children.

The department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, has $2.146 billion to on homeless relief, which is a $245 million increase from last year. But this is really a town by town, city by city, issue. It must be solved locally with help from the HUD budget.

The DuPage County Public Action to Deliver Shelter, or PADS, finished 12 apartments, partially funded by HUD, to help transition the homeless from the street to a permanent residence, the Chicago Tribune reported in December.

Of the beneficiaries, one woman had been homeless for nearly five years, after working for more than 30. A family affected by unemployment and a disabling health condition was moved into an apartment.

PADS served 1,398 individuals and 138 families that included 236 children. This was a 29 percent increase in families and 30 percent increase in children from last year. PADS gets the children enrolled in school and gets the family into a health care system so they don’t have to continue to use the emergency rooms.

Now that the holiday season is over, many of us are suffering from compassion fatigue. We showed kindness, consideration and care to those in need from Thanksgiving through Christmas. It’s a New Year and we need to move on with our lives.

But for the homeless and poor, they can’t move on like the rest of us. Here is a link to over three thousand homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Find it in your heart to click on the link and help in your community. Or go to the Facebook page of DollarDays, where we are giving away 1,000 Marc Gold blankets to non-profit organizations in need this January.  Please nominate one you think deserves our help.

No one wants to be poor. No one wants to be homeless. As our leaders are battling in Washington about how to spend our taxes, the issues of poverty and homelessness have got to be top of mind. Our leaders need to know that we as a nation can’t stand by and watch our fellow Americans suffer. Write your congressman, write your senator. Everyone needs to have a bed as we head into 2013.

Marc Joseph is the author of "The Secrets of Retailing, Or: How to Beat Wal-Mart!" and the CEO/President and founder of DollarDays International Inc.

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