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United Way: Higher poverty rate means more help is needed
It is that time of year again for United Way across the country to begin its annual community campaign to raise dollars to help those less fortunate in our communities. For the past two and a half years this has been a daunting task as the economy has faltered causing bank failures, millions of lay-offs and home foreclosures. Now we read in the headlines that the poverty rate has increased this past year by 14.3 percent, the highest it has been since 1994. What is more shocking about the report is that for those 18 years old and younger, the rate of poverty rose from 19 percent in 2008 to 20.7 percent in 2009. The good news, if there is such a thing with poverty today, is that fewer people 65 and older were in poverty with that rate falling from 9.7 percent to 8.9 percent in 2009.
We are blessed in Kitsap County that our unemployment rate is about 2 percent lower than the national average, thanks in part to the large military presence we have here. However, the problem still is huge.
We are fortunate that we have a great network of health and human service agencies who are working very hard to help those amongst us who have lost their job and maybe even their home. But we still have hundreds of individuals and families who are living in their cars, in the woods, with other relatives or are couch surfing to survive; this is why the United Way annual community campaign is so very important.
For the past two years United Way has, like many other charitable organizations, experienced a decrease in the number of donors and the amount of pledges received. The Board of Directors has made some tough decisions about what to fund. We, like many other organizations, have cut back staff to keep our funding level meaningful.
This year, as a community, we need to increase our efforts to ensure that we do not lose ground. We need to work hard to ensure people are fed, housed and healthy. If it is absolutely necessary that we have people living in the woods in tents because they have no other alternative, these tent cities should be monitored and have some form of sanitation facilities. If the weather gets too cold and rainy, we need to have temporary shelters for people to take refuge so they can stay warm and dry. This needs to be a community effort.
We can do more united than we can alone.
Your support for United Way means that your dollars stay local and help local people. Please help us in our quest to ensure that our community stays healthy and remains one of the best places to live, work and raise a family.
To participate or to make a pledge, call (360) 377-8505 or send your donation to United Way of Kitsap County, 647 4th Street, Bremerton, WA 98337.
Executive Director, United Way of Kitsap County