Ruurbanpoor Looks Back at 2011

December 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

Google “urban poverty” and you’ll probably get a list of poverty news about other countries. That symbolizes how little we know or talk about poverty in America and how seldom people in poverty narrate their own experience. This blog, launched in 2011, joins other efforts in pushing for new awareness and the civic engagement of people living poor and low income lifestyles.

2011 signalled greater media coverage of movements promoting awareness of economic inequality:

  • Tavis Smiley and Cornel West launched their Poverty Tour broadcasting stories from 19 locations and promoting poverty action.
  • Occupy Wall Street united people across the nation in focusing on broad issues of economic inequality.
  • A revitilized Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign pushed for the creation of Land Trusts and staged a summer march and action plan. Democracy Now covered their work however, unlike the events above, it doesn’t appear that they broke through broadly to mainline media.

2011 produced shocking statistics and sad realities

  • New census analysis revealed the full extent of post recession poverty levels. Income levels dipped to that of the mid nineties and poverty jumped to historic proportions. The New York Times dubbed it a signal of a “Lost Decade.”
  • 1 in 8 Americans experienced hunger and food banks strained to meet needs. 1 in 4 families with children had difficulty getting food and hunger among our elders increased 80% over levels in 2001.
  • 45,000 people died in America in 2011 because they didn’ t have health care. More than 16% live without healthcare insurance now.
  • 1 in every 3 working families lost ground earning only low income wages and pushing them into the houses of relatives, into their cars and onto our streets.

Discussion about how to measure poverty and economic insecurity ramped up in 2011. The Census’ Supplemental Poverty Measure reported 16% of America at the SPM poverty line. That’s more than officially measured. The Supplemental Poverty Measure isn’t official yet and won’t be impacting who receives assistance but the fact that it’s analysis was publically reported this year indicates it may become official at some point and will certainly alter our concept of who and how many live in poverty.

State budget crises impacted a broad range of social services that had been helping people living poor and low income lifestyles. New York Human Services Coalition termed the onslaught of cuts to services during and after the recession “dismantling.”

President Obama put forward three major anti poverty programs: Promise Neighborhoods, Choice Neighborhoods and Byrne Criminal Justice Initiative. Promise Neighborhood funding survived vicious budget negotiations but at much less than Obama allocated. Similarly Choice Neighborhoods was funded but at half the cost allocated by the President.

That’s the major news from 2011. As numbers of poor and low imcome people continue to grow and services to help suffer setbacks this blogger anticipates movements for change will gather greater momentum. Stay tuned for another year of reports from low income, poor and homeless authors on issues affecting their lives.

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