Working to Stop Poverty: The Long Road

“2020 has brought pain on more levels than I am capable of describing, but it has also given us the gift of deep clarity about who we are and what we can achieve together.” - Nichole June Maher, CEO of Group Health Foundation, funder of Room One’s 3-year Community Learning Grant

We resonate with the above reflection from Nichole Maher - the past year has indeed shown us the even wider disparities between those with resources, an ability to work remotely, an ability to hire tutors for homeschooling, with access to healthcare and paid sick leave, and those who lost jobs, income, childcare, housing, and can no longer keep food on the table for their families. Like Ms. Maher, Room One has also deepened our understanding of how we can serve and support our community - and the power of our community to rise up and create our own nets of safety, love, and support when others fail.

“We must design systems that allow every person access to their full potential SO THAT the full potential of the economy can be realized. Poverty is a major inhibitor of that potential.” ~Cheryl Fambles, Poverty Reduction Workgroup member and Chief Executive Officer, Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council

Washington State has engaged in a multi-year project to deeply question and engage causes of poverty, resulting in a 10-year plan for our state. We will highlight insights from the report in each newsletter, as they are central to our work at Room One and central to the health and well-being of our community.

Did you know? 33% of the children ages 0-5 in the Methow Valley live in poverty, as defined by the Federal Poverty Level. For a single parent this could be $17,264/year or $26,200/year for a family of four. 32% of the children in Okanogan County live in poverty. And yet providing the best start we can for kids, including access to affordable enriching early childhood education (such as scholarship tuition at the Little Star School) and reducing stressors and likelihood of childhood trauma experienced in the household can be the best investment we can make in the health and well-being of our future generations. At Room One, our Parent and Mothering Support Groups, along with Family Advocacy, are part of what we can offer to strengthen resilience, expand parenting strategies, support basic needs, and offer compassionate understanding of the challenges of parenting when there are so few outlets for kids or parents away from the home.

For our privately funded assistance programs, we are able to use the self-sufficiency standard rather than the federal poverty guidelines to determine income eligibility. The federal poverty level is based on outdated and limited calculations of household expenses. The self-sufficiency standard defines for our unique region what it takes to just make ends meet. On this calculation, there are still no savings, no tuition or student loan payments, no down payment for a home, and no debt reduction, but it provides a more accurate estimate of transportation, childcare, healthcare, housing costs. Now, more than ever, we know that if a household doesn’t have enough to bridge 2-4 weeks off from work, the whole household sinks into a hole from which it is very difficult to dig out.

Did you know? For every $100 increase in rent, homelessness goes up six percent in urban areas and 33 percent in rural areas. This dramatic impact is related to the limited availability of higher paying jobs in rural areas that allow an individual to keep up with the cost of living. We are seeing this gap with increasing seriousness in our valley, especially as available and affordable rentals are limited to non-existent.

For the challenges we are facing as a valley and as a county, we have so many community strengths to draw upon that will allow us to find a way forward together. We look forward to the work ahead with you!

Friday 03.26.21Share