Serious barriers to economic mobility exist in our country, and not everyone starts in the same place or has access to the same advantages. According to the Urban Institute, “Young people from high-wealth families (wealth above roughly $223,500) are more than one and a half times as likely to complete at least two or four years of college by age 25 as those in low-wealth families (wealth below $2,000).” On top of that, the neighborhood where you were raised is a strong predictor of where you’ll end up. For example, children who grew up in the Plymouth Heights neighborhood of Grand Rapids have an average household income of $66,000 by their mid-30s, while children who grew up right next door in the Eastown neighborhood have an average household income of $30,000 (Opportunity Atlas).
Hunger exists in this Community
Food insecurity can be hard to see. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you might be tempted to think it’s only a problem in developing countries. Yet food insecurity exists in every zip code in the United States. In fact, 11.6% of people in Kent County are food insecure. The number among children is even higher: 13.4%. (Map the Meal Gap) For many in our community, fast food and convenience stores are around the corner while outlets that offer fresh produce may be 30 minutes away by bus. And when children don’t have access to good nutrition, their cognitive development is impaired, their health suffers, and they can’t excel in school. (American Psychological Association)
Poverty is a Problem
Poverty expert Scott W. Allard writes, “Contrary to the familiar urban-suburban narrative about poverty in the U.S., there are more poor persons living in the suburbs of American cities than in the cities themselves today. Poverty rates have increased dramatically in suburbs over the last 20 years, as has the concentration of poverty in suburbs.” (Scott W. Allard) In fact, 3 million more poor people live in the suburbs than in cities. That’s a challenge because the nonprofit organizations equipped to serve those in poverty are more likely to be located in urban areas. (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
People Deserve Help
The word “homeless” conjures up a certain image. But that image doesn’t tell the whole story. Nationally, adults and children in families make up 33% of the homeless population. (National Alliance to End Homelessness) According to our partners at Family Promise of Grand Rapids, family homelessness is growing faster than other categories, and an estimated 3,000 children are homeless in Kent County. (Family Promise of Grand Rapids)
I Could Become Homeless
Rising housing costs are putting more people at risk of losing their homes, including those who work. The number of families cost-burdened by housing is incredibly high. More than 59,000 households spend 30% or more of their income on housing in Kent County. The Federal Reserve finds that 4 in 10 adults do not have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense. Others, like some of the women served by our partners at the YWCA of West Central Michigan, find themselves without a home or source of income when they leave an abusive relationship. Homelessness affects people of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds.