Editorial | Poverty: Awareness leads to action
Last week community leaders and social service providers in St. Charles County attending a forum on childhood hunger had a clear message -- poverty is real and it hurts, even though it may be invisible to many of us.
It matters not where you live -- in the City of St. Louis, suburban communities or rural areas to the north, south or west of the metro area. People are struggling to get by, some cannot afford to feed their families and others end up without housing. An increasing number of homeless families find shelter from the elements at places such as libraries and hospital waiting rooms and sometimes their cars.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced last fall that in 2010, median household income declined and the poverty rate rose. Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.
The nation's official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 -- the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 -- the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
Now the Associated Press is reporting that the poverty rate, in figures to be released this fall, will rise to its highest level since 1965.
According to that AP article, poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest of the poor. Discouraged workers, the article pointed out, are giving up on the job market, leaving them vulnerable as unemployment aid begins to run out.
It is discouraging news, but the panelists at the forum at Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service in St. Charles said they believe that awareness and an increased response from the community can go a long way toward easing the situation.
The structures are in place in most areas. For example, Catholic Charities of St. Louis meets the needs of the poor and vulnerable throughout the archdiocese. It is the safety net for tens of thousands of people and families in need -- of all ages, backgrounds and religions. The driving force and fundamental belief of this agency is clear -- they follow Christ's words: "I assure you as often as you did it for one of the least of my brothers, you did it for me" (Matthew 25:40).
Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers person-to-person assistance to those in need.
Many other agencies offer a variety of services, aiming to help people gain stability and head on a path toward self-sufficiency. The difficult task is only possible through the support of people who make donations or volunteer their time.
Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service provides an example of what can be done. A woman and her four young boys were homeless for several months before they were helped to move into a transitional home thanks to donors, staff and volunteers affiliated with Sts. Joachim and Ann. The woman now works close to full time and takes college courses.
As the agency pointed out, families in need depend on selfless people in the community who provide the support that is needed to carry out the work.
No matter how large or how small, your efforts can make a difference.
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