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Blog of the Month, December: Poverty - by: Shay Strawser

Poverty is complex and however you may define it, it does not mean the same thing for all people. For Temple University's home, the poorest city in America, it means lack of access to health care, employment opportunities and quality schools, and exposure to crime. The growing tourism, vast population increase, and rise in development may show that Philadelphia is thriving. However, beneath those highlights are more than a

quarter of its city’s residents struggling below the poverty line.

Around 400,000 people live below the poverty line in Philadelphia, which is about $19,700 a year for a family of three and $12,752 for an individual under the age of 65 living alone or with roommates. Here are some interesting facts regarding poverty in Philadelphia:

Life expectancy is lower in poor zip codes than in wealthier ones.

Areas in which the poverty rate is at least 40% had three times the amount of violent crimes than those where it was less than 20%.

Only 2% of all underprivileged students attend public schools with high achievement ratings.

Research has shown a correlation between poverty and negative health outcomes. Philadelphians that live in poor zip codes have a life expectancy twenty years, which is shorter than those in wealthier zip codes. Since they are facing or are close to facing poverty, people are working longer hours more days of the week, leading to less time off and inevitable wear and tear on the health of these hard working individuals. Finding work and holding a stable job is also a struggle for many individuals in poverty. This is due to their lack of skills from poor education and the consistently low pay. Exposure to crime is a major concern for many living in poverty. Philadelphia’s Police Department shows that crime is the worst in its least wealthy communities. One element that acts as a gateway out of poverty is access to quality education which Philadelphia lacks. Essentially, students are being sent to schools that are suffering because the state does not provide sufficient funding for them.

With many Philadelphians struggling with poverty, they may face the problems mentioned above their entire lives, making it extremely difficult to climb the economic ladder.

Philadelphia has struggled with poverty for generations, resulting in decades of job loss and structural racism. In order to break this cycle of poverty for future generations, Mayor Kenney has focused on investing in the Philadelphia community. He and his administration have done so by stabilizing residents who need the help now, increasing incomes to lift those out of poverty, and investing in the future generations of Philadelphians.

The most recent study released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the city’s poverty rate decreased to about 24% for the first time since 2008. Being the first time in eleven years that the poverty rate dipped below 25%, it provides hope and confidence to the city of Philadelphia.

Fighting poverty may take time, but with a strong community that is willing to change, Philadelphia can continue to lower that 24% rate.

It is important that those in poverty can rely on their friends and family for assistance. Whether this means assisting them in having shelter, providing child care or financial assistance. Leaning on friends and family helps those in poverty survive day to day.

Whether you are a local student or a working professional, you can help minimize Philly’s poverty. A great way to get involved is through a Philadelphia based non-profit organization: United for Impact. The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey's mission is to fight poverty with a main focus on early learning, career pathways & pipelines and economic empowerment. YOU can be involved by giving, volunteering, advocating, partnering with organizations and/or running a campaign. Click here to learn more.

There are also six primary government assistance programs available to those in poverty: Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid, Public Housing, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

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