Can You Spare Some Change?
By: Jenna Marie Christian
Poverty is a term commonly used to describe the living conditions in poor urban areas. Many Americans who are blessed with a more suitable lifestyle of living often have the misconception that the people living in poverty are there due to their own lack of determination to have more in life. The next time you are asked for some spare change, instead of passing judgment on the less fortunate, take a moment and look at the economy and the various reasons that may have contributed to that person’s current situation. Realistically speaking many of us are only a paycheck away from standing on a corner ourselves. We are living in a city where the rich are becoming richer, while the overworked and underpaid individuals are struggling more.
Chicago’s concerns for the poverty stricken families seem to have fallen by the waste side. The city spends an incredible amount of money funding tourist attractions such as Millennium Park and the Magnificent Mile. All the while ignoring the fact that more families are becoming homeless and that more programs are needed to assist the less fortunate. Gentrification seemed like an awesome idea. Buying and renovating the houses and stores in the deteriorated urban areas, to improve property value and improving the living conditions of those who reside in the area. Unfortunately, the wealthy would restore and upgrade these properties, leaving the lower- income people displaced. The properties go from being affordable housing to over priced condominiums and town home units.
We cannot forget about the unemployment rate and underemployment rate being a factor in Chicago’s Rising Poverty crisis. Companies are dealing with financial setbacks due to the increasing salaries for the CEO’s while the employee’s suffer and struggle to make end’s meat. Stagnant wages, no benefits, no stability, no pension plans and long hours are the norm. Chicagoans cannot afford health care, medical insurance or dental insurance because they can barely afford housing and utilities. Therefore the poor often end up with more diseases and health complications than the average wealthy person. Medical and dental visits usually leave the less fortunate in more of a bind than before.
According to the most recent census, the poverty guidelines household income for a family of 3 is $13,738. A family of 5 poverty guidelines household income must be $20,819. In 2005, the median annual household income according to the US Census Bureau was determined to be $46,326. The median income per household member (including all working and non-working members above the age of 14) in the year 2003 was $23,535. 12.7% fell below the federal poverty threshold while the bottom 20% earned less than $19,178.
The 2005 economic survey also found that households in the higher household income range, with an annual household income exceeding $55,331, had two income earners while those in the lower range had only one income earner per household.
The Chicago Continuum of Care created a plan to end homelessness in 10 years. The plan outlines 3 very crucial points:
1. Expand the range and availability of prevention strategies, increase their immediate accessibility, and improve their long-term effectiveness.
2. Expand the availability of affordable permanent housing, increase its accessibility and transition the existing tiered shelter system into a housing first system.
3. Provide transitional services that ensure linkage to community resources, and increase the availability and awareness of formal community supports.
This sounds very good, but we have to stop building over priced condominiums and displacing the lower income individuals. Chicagoans need more programs designed to assist those living in and living very near the poverty level. We need more shelters and institutions to help educate and employ those that are currently homeless. Chicago needs to increase the wages of the average everyday working individuals. There needs to be more companies offering benefit packages that includes, medical, dental, and vision insurance for their employees and families. We need more organizations like Streetwise that give an opportunity to those in need of assistance and not turn our back on them. The economic state of Chicago seems to be getting worse and the poor seem to be the first to suffer. Every Chicagoan should do their part to ensure that we can assist in decreasing the poverty rate. We may be doing alight financially now, but it could be you and your child asking for change next time around. Don’t wait until it is too late to make Chicago a better place.