One in seven Americans live under the poverty line, according to the latest census data. That doesn’t mean they have to live in poverty.
Never in the history of the United States have so many Americans struggled to make ends meet.
According to a report released by the Census Bureau on Thursday, in 2009, the US poverty rate climbed to 14.3 percent. What does that look like exactly? 43.6 million people who lived in four-person households and earned $21,954, or the equivalent during 2009—year two of a recession that has thrown millions out of work and into unheated or foreclosed homes, or worse, the streets.
A year from now, the Census Bureau will release stats telling the tale of 2010. If the latest economic data is any indication, it won’t be a pleasant story. But the numbers don’t have to tell the whole story. By helping your less fortunate friends and neighbors secure a few basic needs, you can make a difference on whether or not people who live below the poverty line actually live in poverty.
Here are a few suggestions as to what you can do:
Clean Water: Access to clean water isn’t the problem in America that it is in developing nations, where sewage and liquid refreshment often intermix. Still, many who can’t afford to pay for utilities may seek unsafe watering holes, or maybe worse, subsist on soda. There’s a simple and obvious solution: Brita. The filters aren’t certified to purify microbiologically unsafe water, but fill one with tap and throw it in a fridge and you’re guaranteed to hydrate more frequently with H2O than something less healthy. Gift a filter pitcher to someone who can’t afford it to keep America drinking healthy.
Nutrition: Nearly 15 percent of American households had low or very low food security in 2008, according to the USDA. In 2010, even more families are food insecure. How to help? Visit Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity and learn more about how and where you can help. Their Food Bank Locator couldn’t make it easier. Or, you can practice the old proverb and teach a man to fish. We suggest hooking and eating a few non-native Asian carp. It’s good for you (more Omega-3s than similar fish and no mercury) and good for America’s waterways.
Health Care: More Americans lost health insurance between 2008 and 2009 than during any other year in the country’s history. In America, health care is not a right.There’s nothing funny about that, unless you want to get into the dental tactics employed by uncertified backwoods orthodontists. You can help one of millions of uncovered Americans by suggesting he or she drop by a Remote Area Medical (RAM) pop-up clinic. Founder Stan Brock loads dentist chairs in his own private DC-3s and flies them across the country. Seriously. And, if activism is more your thing, get involved with one of the many organizations like Cover the Uninsured fighting to make health care accessible to all Americans.
Education: In America, public school budgets are linked to area property taxes. As such, poor Americans must generally send their kids to ill-equipped and underfunded schools. Making matters worse, kids from poor families are up to six times more likely to drop out of school than kids from wealthy families, according to DoSomething.org. There’s no easy out, but maybe the easiest? Google “free museums,” plug in your zip code, and take along a young kid to learn something, even if it’s how much he or she hates tsarist-era portraiture.
Clothing: In Nigeria, the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl in 2010. The historically inaccurate shirts and hats manufactured in case the loser won are traditionally sent to the developing world. Sucks for every kid with a ketchup smudged tee that lives on urban American blocks. It might be time to clean out that closet and donate some clothes. The Salvation Army makes it a no-brainer.
Shelter: Last year, 1.5 million Americans experienced homelessness, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. That’s 1.5 million too many. Featherless bipeds need a permanent place to weather the elements. Unless they live in San Diego, where it seems there are no elements. But even in San Diego, people need somewhere to hang their double-breasted suits. What else you going to wear during a job interview!? Jokes aside, the worst recession of the modern age may make it time to reconsider the no Facebook friends on the couch policy … Or, help support your local Homeless Shelter.
Originally published on Tonic