There’s good news and bad news concerning poverty in America. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the share of people living in poverty last year dropped ever so slightly — by half a percentage point — to 14.5 percent. While that may not seem like much progress, it is the first time the poverty rate has fallen since 2006. On the other hand, the rate is still 2 percentage points higher than it was back then.
The Census Bureau report indicates more people are working full-time jobs. But, the country’s median household income edged up only by about $180.
So, what does this mean for America’s economy? Since the recession of 2007-09, the climb back to economic recovery has been slow. Here at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we have continued to see a newer category of people that we call the “working homeless” or the “working poor” come to our facilities for shelter and food.
They are employed parents who can’t afford to pay their utilities and feed their families, too. Or they are working families who were renting a home that fell into foreclosure, because the owner/landlord did not make the mortgage payments. Or they are individuals who were laid-off and forced to take lower paying jobs, but now cannot pay all of their bills.
It’s heartbreaking to me and the DRMM staff to see people in the food lines who have come directly from their job and are still in their work clothes. Most have never known what it’s like to stand in line at a homeless shelter for a meal. This is not the type of life they’ve led in the past, but their present economic situation has forced them to seek help. They are standing in line humbly, but inside they must be hurting.
It’s clear that the majority of families in this country have yet to see their incomes recover from the recession. As a result, the demand remains high on providers like Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. And, it will continue until poverty in America is eliminated.