Through your voice and your actions, you can help those who face economic challenges. The first step in doing so is to learn the facts.
The U.S. Government defines poverty based on whether average income is adequate to provide sufficient family nutrition. This significantly undercounts the number of people who actually live in poverty. The guidelines do not take into account other common expenses of daily living, such as health care, child care, transportation costs, etc. Many folks who live far above the federal poverty level face significant economic challenges.
Most likely, anyone living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level struggles to meet the basic needs of life. Over 1/3 of Douglas and Josephine County residents, more than 75,000 people, face this struggle. These tens of thousands of people often face difficult decisions deciding which needs they can meet, and may forgo otherwise necessary expenses for things such as healthcare.
These difficult decisions lead to day-to-day stress not faced by those with more resources. Worse, people living in poverty face shame and humiliation, even though many are hard workers who find creative ways to live with less. Stress, shame and humiliation make it more difficult for children to learn, for adults to focus at work, and for people to stay healthy.
Unemployment itself it not the region’s major cause of poverty. After all, while over 33% of residents struggle to make ends meet, at its worst, the region has seen unemployment rates of 10-15%. The rate is often lower than that, even though regional unemployment does tend to exceed that of other regions in the state.
Three things really make it difficult for folks to meet their basic needs.
To learn much more about poverty and assets in our region, take a look at our annual needs assessment.
Once you’ve learned the facts, educate others and raise awareness. You can start by sharing facts with your family and friends. You can share information with members of your church, clubs you belong to, at community centers, etc. Better yet, connect with others in your community interested in increasing opportunities, and work together to get the word out.
There are many ways that poverty can be addressed, from providing free meals to low-income students to having laws passed that provide help to those who can’t pay their rent. Locally, consider:
Of course, when local or state politicians are considering laws that can impact those facing economic challenges, educate yourself about these laws.
Be an active member of our democracy and contact your representatives. You can educate them about the facts of local poverty and advocate for measures that will improve the lives of others.
With respect to neighbors, family and friends who may be struggling: