Lancaster County has the 10th lowest poverty rate in the nation. According to Paula Wolf on lancasteronline.com in her article, “County’s Poverty Rate is 10th Lowest,” she wrote, “Of the United States’ 102 metropolitan areas with at least 500,000 residents, the county has the 10th lowest poverty rate at 10.5 percent. In 2010, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reported that 52,918 of the 506,274 people in Lancaster County lived in poverty. The Census Bureau stated the county’s average poverty levels range from $11,139 for an individual to $45,220 for a household of nine or more people.” The national poverty rate is 15.3 percent, according to Wolf, while Pennsylvania’s level of poverty is at 13.4 percent, which translates to about 1.65 million people.
Also according to Wolf, throughout Pennsylvania, of the metros with populations over a half million, Lancaster County is better than Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s level of 14.9 percent, Philadelphia/Camden/Wilmington’s level of 12.7 percent, Pittsburgh’s 12.2 percent level, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton’s level of 11.7 percent and Harrisburg/Carlisle’s 10.9 percent level. Factoring in the smaller metro areas, Lancaster County’s poverty rate is higher than York County’s rate of 9.2 percent but lower than Lebanon County’s average of 10.9 percent and Berks County’s level of 14.1 percent.
According to the census, more than 80 percent of U.S. residents live in one of the country’s 366 metro areas, and two-thirds of the population lives in metro areas with 500,000-plus people. The poverty rate among the larger areas spans from 8.4 percent for Washington/Arlington/Alexandria (Va.) to 33.4 percent for Hidalgo County, Texas.
Last December, Wolf wrote a similar article reporting that 46,401 individuals in Lancaster County were below the poverty line in 2009, up from 45,093 in 2008. In the article, Wolf said, “Overall, the county’s poverty rate rose from 9.2 percent in 2008 to 9.4 percent in 2009. And although that’s still well under the national figure of 14.3 percent, those who serve families in need report that a different profile of poverty is emerging.” In a year, Lancaster County has added 6,517 people to the poverty polls, which increased the poverty rate by 1.1 percent.
There are several groups and organizations throughout the nation that are designed to aid those dealing with poverty and homelessness. Elizabethtown College has a relatively new group on campus called Charity and Advocacy for Ending Poverty (CAEP), which focuses on poverty and homelessness on a local, national and international level. Daniel Cline, the faculty advisor for the club and area coordinator in the Office of Residence Life, described the group as, “an organization that is dedicated to the issues of homelessness, poverty, and hunger on a local, national and international level.” Cline continued, “We [CAEP] have started to reach out and seek new avenues to develop our cause through our campus and spread the word.”
Recently CAEP held an event called the Diversity Gala, where the members discussed Haiti and its poverty issues after the most recent earthquake. They described the culture and the values embedded into Haiti’s society and how well they are doing in trying to transform their country back to what it was prior to the earthquake.
This past weekend, the group attended Box City, an event sponsored by Family Promises of Harrisburg Capital Region. During Box City, participants pay $100 for a box to sleep in for the night. It is designed to simulate what it is like to live in poverty and be homeless. The campus group did not participate, but, according to Cline, “they hope to observe and take the emotional reactions and bring it back to the College.”
At the end of the year, CAEP will take a week-long trip to Washington, D.C.—which according to Cline’s research, has the third highest homelessness rate in the country—for a week and look at what homelessness really is. They participate in Midnight Run, in which the participants provide homemade sandwiches, fruit, snacks and toiletries to homeless people in the heart of D.C. Cline described Midnight Run as “more than just handing over the supplies; they humanize it and teach them.”
Even though there are several groups and organizations designed to help and teach those dealing with poverty and homelessness, the poverty level continues to rise at a steady rate all over the country.