What do you know about poverty? What can one person do about it?
Take a look at this 2007 Report on Illinois Poverty from Heartland Alliance. More than 21 percent of Chicagoans live in poverty, and 12 percent of people in Illinois live in poverty. That's more than half a million people in Chicago alone, and more than a third of them are children. Most of these live in extreme poverty, meaning that their income is less than half the federal poverty income threshhold--which in 2007 was $20,650 for a family of four.
More than 50 percent of Chicago renter households pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing. Working families earning less than $50K spend an average of 55 percent of their annual budget on housing and transportation.
The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reports in this fact sheet that almost 74,000 people--men, women and children--were homeless in Chicago in 2006. More than 65,000 households are waiting for public housing to become available. Women and children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
Poverty and low-income rates are growing in the Chicago metropolitan area. Things are getting worse, not better, for poor and low-income families.
What can you do about it?
If you're reading this blog, chances are, you're one of the lucky ones. Count your blessings, and give some away. Find a local organization to support. Give money. Give food. Volunteer your time. Teach your kids to care about people in need by setting an example for them.
Give a homeless person a few bucks without worrying about whether you're getting scammed, or whether he's going to buy booze or drugs with it. If you're headed downtown, buy an extra double cheeseburger meal, and give it away.
I know that my readers are among the most kind-hearted and generous on the planet. I'd love to hear about some of the ways that you've reached out to help another person in need. Maybe we can inspire one another to help even more.
UPDATE: I just stumbled on this article, which I think gives a personal, touching account of a person who spent a large chunk of his life serving poor people. It's eye-opening, especially for those of us who at times might be tempted to feel superior to someone who's behavior or choices we don't approve of. It's far better than anything that I could write, because it's intensely personal and also very thoroughly documented.