Poverty rates can cloak the harsher problem of deep poverty

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Poverty rates can cloak the harsher problem of deep poverty

By Stateline.org, adapted by Newsela staff

WASHINGTON — Mississippi has the highest poverty rate and the lowest income in the country. Other states, such as Hawaii, Maryland and Massachusetts, often are at the opposite end of the scale, with much lower percentages of low-income residents.

However, some of these wealthier states also had some of the highest percentages of low-income residents living in deep poverty, according to a new study by the Stateline news organization. The federal poverty line in 2013 was $23,550 for a family of four, while deep poverty was defined as living on less than $12,000 per year for a family of four.

Stateline discovered this while analyzing poverty data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau, the government agency that collects data on Americans and the economy. 

The persistence of deep poverty in rich states that have reduced their overall poverty rates is a huge problem, economists and anti-poverty advocates say.

Pockets Of Poverty

Maryland highlights the problem. In 2013, 20.6 percent of Americans were at, below, or just above the federal poverty line, and lived on roughly $23,000 to $30,000 a year. In Maryland, the poverty rate was just 13.3 percent, the third-lowest percentage among all the states and the District of Columbia.

However, nearly 38 percent of Maryland’s low-income residents were living in deep poverty. Among the states, Maryland had the highest rate of residents in deep poverty in the country, though it was still lower than Washington, D.C.

Experts see several possible explanations for the difference. Some point to pockets of poverty in rural western Maryland, which are far from jobs and anti-poverty programs. Others think it is because of the large numbers of extremely poor people concentrated in certain areas of Baltimore. A recent Brookings Institution study found more than 1 in 10 of the city’s poor residents live in areas where the overall poverty rate tops 40 percent.

The situation is familiar to Bill McCarthy, executive director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore. He described areas of Baltimore where poverty rates top 90 percent and many residents are homeless. In some parts of the city, more than 70 percent of the residents are unemployed. Many of them have criminal records that make it difficult for them to get hired. In those cases, he said, the traditional programs for getting people out of poverty don't work as well.

“They address certain symptoms for short brief periods but don’t bring what I’ll call real change to people," McCarthy said.

In response, Catholic Charities has changed the way it provides services. It has begun to provide job training, health care, help in finding housing and other services in a single place. The approach recognizes that for some people, traditional anti-poverty programs — programs that give poor people food and money — simply aren’t enough. For one thing, some of the poorest people in Baltimore are homeless and don’t have an address where they can receive unemployment checks.

Living In Deep Poverty

Other states are experiencing the same problem. The percentage of Hawaii residents living around the poverty line is 14.5 percent, the fifth lowest in the country. But Hawaii has the sixth-highest share of its low-income residents in deep poverty, almost 37 percent. The state’s extraordinarily high cost of living, including food and housing expenses, makes the problem worse for many who live there.

Massachusetts is another example. A total of 15.3 percent of its residents live around the poverty line, which puts it at 43rd overall. But 36 percent of Massachusetts' low-income residents are living in deep poverty, which is the 10th highest in the nation.

Nationally, the share of low-income residents in deep poverty is 34 percent. Vermont has the lowest rate, at 26.3 percent.

Half of the Americans stuck in deep poverty are younger than 25 years old, a report from the Urban Institute found. More than a third of those are younger than 17. To help poor children, the government and organizations provide free or reduced-price lunches in schools, health care and extra food for their families.

Reaching adults in deep poverty can be more difficult. Many safety-net programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, commonly called “welfare,” are tied to work, or are limited to parents. Just 4 percent of deeply poor people older than 16 worked full time for the full year period analyzed in the Urban Institute study. Three-quarters of the deeply poor hadn’t worked at all.

“Most people in poverty are working,” said Elizabeth Lower-Basch of the Center for Law and Social Policy, a low-income research group. People in deep poverty, though, tend to be out of work or don't work steadily, she said.

Hard To Climb Out Of It

Many of the deeply poor are struggling with problems that make it difficult to find work, including family violence and mental illness. It is an especially significant problem in Washington, D.C., where nearly 45 percent of low-income residents live in deep poverty.

There isn't always support for people who are struggling with these problems, said Jenny Reed of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

“It’s really hard to get a job if you don’t have a place to go at night,” she said. “It’s sort of a circular problem. It’s very difficult for people who are in deep poverty to start to climb out.”

Yet some say that any help for poor people that doesn’t emphasize work and being self-sufficient is doomed to fail. Many conservatives argue that job training and work are the keys to reducing poverty. They believe that people should get government benefits and help only if they are in programs to learn jobs skills or are working at least part time.

“We have this huge welfare system, and yet the rate of self-sufficiency of Americans has not really improved,” said Rachel Sheffield of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

World's 85 richest have wealth equal to half the world population

By McClatchy Foreign Staff, adapted by Newsela staff

BERLIN — The 85 richest people in the world control the same amount of money as half of the world’s population, according to a report published Monday by the British-based anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

That means that the world’s poorest 3.55 billion people must live on what the richest 85 have. Another way to look at it: Each of the wealthiest 85 has access to the same resources as about 42 million of the world’s poor, a number equal to the populations of Canada, Kentucky and Kansas, put together.

The report was issued just before The World Economic Forum opens on Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland. The forum is a gathering spot for world political, academic and business leaders where, the forum’s website says, they “shape global, regional and industry agendas.”

In announcing the study, Oxfam’s website said that the growing wealth gap is undermining democracy.

“The past quarter of a century has seen wealth become ever more concentrated in the hands of fewer people,” it said. “The wealth of the 1 percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half.”

Financial Crisis Big Benefit To The Rich

The report says 210 people joined the ranks of billionaires last year, bringing their total world population to about 1,400.

The report also said that while the recent financial crisis was an enormous burden on the world’s poor, it ended up being a huge benefit to the rich elite. The very wealthiest people on Earth collected 95 percent of the growth that occurred after the crisis, the report said.

The report said that the trend is more evident in the United States than in other nations. But it is hardly limited to the U.S. It said that in only two countries, Colombia and the Netherlands, had the share of income received by the wealthiest 1 percent not increased between 1980 and 2012.

In the United States, China and Portugal, the report said, the wealthiest 1 percent had seen its share of income more than double in the same period.

To show how much the rich are increasing their share, the report summed up the combined wealth of Europe’s 10 richest people. The amount is higher than the total amount of money that was needed to bail out the European economy between 2008 and 2010.

Oxfam urged countries to take steps to make sure policies didn’t make the situation worse. “When there is growth and diminishing inequality, the rules governing markets are working in favor of the middle classes and the poorest sections of society,” the report said. However, the report continued, when only the rich are making money, the rules start bending in their favor.

Is homelessness in Chicago an unsolvable problem

By Peter Bella, June 9, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Homeless person's spot at underground Wacker Drive along the Riverwalk. Notice how neat it is and the open bible on the right.

The installation of what are called anti-homeless barriers at the Belmont overpass is creating a stir among homeless advocates. For about a decade, homeless people have lived under this Kennedy Expressway overpass.

Friday morning the homeless were evicted from the overpass by Streets and Sanitation, Human Services, and police personnel. Human Services was on hand to assist the homeless. Some are celebrating that an eyesore is being removed. Others are concerned that the homeless are just being shuffled someplace else to be someone else's problem.

Homelessness, like crime is woven into the historical fabric of Chicago. During the early days of the city people lived in fields until they could get a job, build a small stake, or strike it rich. Even those who were employed in menial labor were homeless.

Homelessness became a publicity issue during the 1980s. The homeless problem exploded when courts ordered mental institutions to release patients being held involuntarily. They were released with nowhere to go.

Over the past three decades attempts by politicians and various groups to tackle the problem have been mounted. Most attempts failed, some miserably. The homeless are still on the street and their numbers are growing.

While many so-called experts claim to know the various issues surrounding homelessness, they can never figure out what to do.

Many homeless people in Chicago eschew the shelter system for various reasons, the rules, having to be back on the street by a certain time, or the long lines with no guarantee of a shower, hot meal, and bed. The so called experts never realize you cannot help people who do not want to help themselves. You cannot force people to except your handout or hand up.

Many, if not most homeless people in Chicago have mental, alcohol, or substance abuse problems. Others lost their homes after losing their jobs or low income marriages that fell apart. Whole families are homeless.

One of the reasons homeless people gather in groups is safety. There is safety in numbers. A group cannot be preyed upon as easily as a loner.

Something has to be done. No one really wants to solve the problem. NIMBY is the prevailing attitude in every area of Chicago.

People do not want large shelters in their neighborhoods, commercial areas do not want them, and many consider shelters and homeless people lingering in the area as eyesores.

Streetwise and Inspiration Corporation have two viable programs to assist and transition the homeless. Their resources and programs are limited. They can only take in so many people.

The big question beckons. How do you help people who do not want or cannot help themselves? We no longer can round up mentally unstable people and institutionalize them. We cannot force alcohol and substance abusers into programs. We cannot force people to want to follow the rules of shelters.

We cannot force people to do anything they do not want to do or do not have the mental capabilities to do.

Let's face it, the homeless will be on the streets and none of us wants them in or around our neighborhoods. Even Underground Wacker Drive and the connecting streets are over crowded.

These are people. Our people. They are someone's son, daughter, mother, father, sister, or brother. All most want is a safe place to protect them from the elements at night. Shuffling them around the city will do no good. It just disperses them until they are shuffled again.

Chicago is home to some of the best creative minds in America. People who can solve some of the most critical issues in the world. Hunger in primitive lands, AIDS in Africa, research to eliminate various jungle diseases, or programs to alleviate poverty in third and fourth world nations.

Our colleges and universities are brimming with people of supposed conscience who protest and rail against what they perceive are various injustices throughout the world. They conveniently ignore injustice they can see daily.

Yet here, in our own backyard, on display for all the world to see, is a problem that all these so-called bright minds are blind to.

Chicago is also home to acres of unused vacant land and more vacant and abandoned buildings than can be counted. Most of these parcels and buildings have been unused for years.

Maybe some of those bright creative minds can come up with solutions to assist the city and help our homeless instead of strange faceless people continents away. No, there is not an "App for that".

The politicians can't or won't solve the problem. Charitable agencies and services are getting overwhelmed.

Is homelessness in Chicago an unsolvable problem or a challenge to the best and brightest minds to tackle?

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