Research indicates that poverty in America not only affects the millions of people who are deprived of the common necessities to live, but it also affects the idea of progression and hopefulness in our nation if not the world. More than forty-six (46) million people in America are living in desperate poverty. These children, youth, and families are not invisible their suffering is evident, if we choose to look. In an effort to bring attention to this national crisis, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) designated January as “Poverty in America Awareness Month.” As Dr. Martin Luther King so aptly stated, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”
As a long-time advocate for indigent children, youth, and families, I see and have seen the impact of poverty and need on the human spirit. I know first-hand, what poverty and dependence look like and how they destroy lives, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. In spite of the seemingly limitless prosperity that many Americans enjoy, millions of others are going hungry, foregoing medical care, doing without winter coats and gloves, and struggling to break free from poverty. It has been reported that forty-six point two (46.2) million Americans lived below the poverty line – $22,314 a year for a family of four – marking the fourth year in a row that poverty has increased last year.
Currently in America, the unemployment rate stands at eight point six (8.6) percent. Despite recent economic growth, research indicates that more than forty-three (43) million Americans including fourteen point seven (14.7) million children – live in poverty, the highest in the more than fifty (50) years that the data has been tracked. Yet a recent Gallup poll found that only five (5) percent of Americans believe poverty and homelessness are important problems for the country. With that said, this post will share disturbing facts about the prevalence of poverty in America and give you some suggestions of actions that can be taken to help improve the quality of life for countless persons living in poverty that were shared by St. Vincent de Paul Society:
“Over twenty-five (25) percent of America’s children under the age of six live in poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to fourteen point five (14.5) percent in 2010 from thirteen point nine (13.9) percent in 2009, the highest in seventeen (17) years. As poverty surged last year to its highest level since 1993, median household income declined, leaving the typical American household earning less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1997. One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program. Child homelessness in the United States is now thirty-three (33) percent higher than it was back in 2007. More than fifty (50) million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.”
“Research indicates that one point six (1.6) million American children “were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year”. The percentage of children living in poverty in the United States increased from sixteen point nine (16.9) percent in 2006 to nearly twenty-two (22) percent in 2010. One out of every seven (7) mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.”
“The number of children living in poverty in the America has risen for four (4) consecutive years. There are ten different U.S. states where at least one out of every four babies is born to a family living in poverty. Twenty percent of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job. There are seven million children in the United States today that are not covered by health insurance at all.”
“Today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps. It is being projected that approximately 50 percent of all U.S. children will be on food stamps at some point in their lives before they reach the age of 18. In 2010, 42 percent of all single mothers in the United States were on food stamps. More than 20 million U.S. children rely on school meal programs to keep from going hungry.”
“It is hard to fathom why, in a country so rich with resources, we continue to ignore the issue of poverty among Americans. There appears to be no courage among our political leadership (of either party) to address poverty and the issue of need among so many Americans. Many proposals to balance the budget place a disproportionate burden on the poor; cutting vital programs that would keep our children off of the streets and in school, keep families in their homes or fight hunger. Consequently, many Americans are being forced to make hard decisions between paying the rent, buying food, receiving health care or paying for utilities. These are impossible decisions that no one should have to make.”
“As we emerge from the holiday season, it is critical that we recommit to the fight against poverty and pursue a strong, sustained, and comprehensive response to help end hunger, homelessness and poverty in America. By defeating poverty, we will restore our failing economy and put our nation back on a path to prosperity.”
“The causes of poverty are complex – as are the solutions. Yet, there is much we can do, as individuals and as community groups, to work with other Americans to address the root causes of poverty. The first step to solving any problem is understanding it – educating ourselves and others about the true state of American poverty, its enormity, conditions and effects. Here are three (3) simple steps you can take to become informed and inform others about poverty in America. (Adopted from the USCCB ‘Poverty in America’ website).”
“Watch the local news. Read the newspapers. Look for stories about poverty in your community – and be aware of policies and programs in your area affecting poor and low-income families, including those related to affordable housing, access to health care, public transportation, and good quality education.”
“After familiarizing yourself with the facts about poverty in the United States, share what you have learned with others – at home, school, work, church, or wherever else opportunities arise. Others in your community will benefit from your informed viewpoint. An honest, open dialogue is a good step toward addressing the problem. If you are a parent, talk to your children about poverty in America, about its causes and what we as individuals and as a nation should and can do to help those in need find permanent solutions to the problem.”
SHARE KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING
We can only make a difference when we take action. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” ”You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”- Gandhi.
Source(s): Gallop Poll. Brainy Quotes. 2010 US Census. National Center on Family Homelessness. USCCB ‘Poverty in America’ website. St. Vincent de Paul Society. PTA.
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