Poverty Amidst Plenty

| December 17, 2012
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povertyThe Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County (CFAAC) recently released the 2012 edition of “Poverty Amidst Plenty, the biannual Guide to Action,” at a workshop attended by more than one hundred local non-profit leaders and community representatives. The report contains mixed news about how our county is surviving the economic downturn.

“The Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County is dedicated to harnessing our community’s tremendous resources in order to address our toughest challenges and embrace our most inspiring opportunities,” states Bess Langbein, CFAAC’s Executive Director. “It seems only fitting that our organization would take the lead in performing a study like this and making the results available to the community.”

CFAAC contracted Dr. Pamela Brown, executive director and the Anne Arundel County Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, to produce this report compiled from 2010 Census data and dozens of interviews with individuals from throughout the County. At the workshop, Dr. Brown stated that this was just a snapshot of what’s happening in the county, but that the needs continue to be very real. “The most compelling needs in the county are affordable housing, transportation and quality child care. People who cannot afford to live here, who cannot get to a job without a car, and who cannot pay the going rate for child care, have no hope of getting ahead.”

The median value of a home here in 2010 was $343,000, which is $163,500 greater than the US median home value. According to the report, “many single-family homes occupied by low-income families are now overcrowded because family members who lost their own homes during the recession are ‘doubling up’.” Those already in public housing have nowhere they can afford to move; those who are homeless have little chance of finding either public or subsidized housing as they join thousands of others on waiting lists for public or subsidized housing.

Access to quality child care is also an obstacle for low-wealth families. The cost of infant child care is more than $10,000 a year with the cost for a pre-school child nearly $9,500. Together this is 20% of a family median income of nearly $100,000. As another disturbing trend, there are 1096 homeless students in Anne Arundel Schools – an alarming increase with numbers nearly doubled since 2008. More than half of these children are in grades K to 5.

The public transportation system in the county can present significant obstacles to obtaining or keeping employment for low-wealth residents because the various localized systems are not integrated. This lack of integration makes travel from dense housing areas to dense employment areas almost impossible without a personal vehicle. The report acknowledges that this is a long-standing issue in the county that will require significant work at a policy level for any real change to occur.

“Even though some of what was presented seems daunting, and for some overwhelming, I am encouraged because unlike a big city like Detroit, Cleveland, even Baltimore, we can wrap our arms around those in need here in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, and I believe we can make the difference for so many and benefit our entire community,” remarked Carlesa Finney, Director of Equity Assurance and Human Relations, Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

There is also some good news in the report. The teen birth rate in Anne Arundel County has lowered from 2.1% in 2007 to 1.9% in 2010. The mortality rate for infants has decreased consistently. There is steady growth in the number of local children who are entering school ready to learn and whose academic performance exceeds that of students statewide. Disciplinary referrals in schools have declined more than 53% in the past six years. Vibrant arts organizations are having community-wide impact through arts integration in the public schools and a new Arts and Culture District in the City of Annapolis.

Other issues of concern addressed in the report include an increase in obesity, mental health issues, and substance abuse; and continuing environmental concerns.

The fundamental goals of “Poverty Amidst Plenty” are to help frame an informed discussion about trends and needs in Anne Arundel County and contribute to planning and actions that address those needs. “The Community Foundation’s report presents an excellent opportunity for the County to reflect annually about how we can marshal our collective strengths and assets and work together to continue to improve the overall health of Anne Arundel County residents and eliminate the disparities that persist,” remarked Dr. Angela M. Wakhweya, Health Officer at the Anne Arundel County Health Department.

To access a copy of “Poverty Amidst Plenty – Surviving the Economic Downturn,” click on the 2012 Needs Assessment link on the Community Foundation’s website (www.cfaac.org). To request more information, contact the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County at 410-280-1102 or contact@cfaac.org .

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