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Poverty Challenge 2011: Quick Facts

What is it?

The Poverty Challenge is a 3-day consciousness-raising event about poverty in the greater Buffalo region. Those involved will attempt to keep to a poverty budget, making choices each day about food, personal care, transportation, and related costs on a limited budget to show solidarity with those in poverty who struggle with these choices every day.

What is to be gained from doing this Poverty Challenge?

First of all, this is not a way of “playing poor” for a few days. The experience of poverty can be frightening, particularly when one doesn’t know when it will end. It is the hope of those organizing and participating in the Poverty Challenge that this effort will raise awareness about how poverty affects the day-to-day life of many in our community, help those of us who are not in poverty begin to realize the resources and networks we have as a result of having a higher income, and inspire us all to take a stand against the persistence of poverty in Western New York.

In Buffalo, 36% of families with children under the age of 18 live in poverty .

And this may be a gross underestimate of the number of families who are struggling to make ends meet. Research indicates that an updated “basic needs budget” (at $49,314 for a family of four) may actually be more than double the federal poverty line ($16,705 for that same family), which would make the number of families struggling to get by much higher . Approximately 2,000 men, women, and children in Erie County experience poverty that is so extreme that they cannot even afford their own shelter and the situation is worsening . This past January the unemployment rate in Buffalo jumped to 9%, the highest level in 20 years. Additionally, the United States Census Bureau named Buffalo the third poorest large city in the United States, with approximately one-third of its adult population living below the poverty line (about twice the national average) . The already dire situation in Buffalo is deteriorating every day, making the task of understanding and ending poverty extremely critical.

Poverty is not a new phenomenon in Buffalo.

However, the current level of poverty is shamefully high and as the current economic crisis worsens, we can only expect the number of people living in poverty to increase. Now more than ever urgent action is needed to address the poverty that pervades our community; yet, that urgent action cannot begin until dialogue about the issue of poverty comes to the forefront among community leaders and policy makers. With that in mind, the Homeless Alliance is coordinating the 2011 Poverty Challenge.

Why is the Homeless Alliance coordinating this event?

“What does homelessness have to do with poverty?” you may ask. It is not uncommon for many to think that homelessness and poverty are not immediately related. Often, homelessness gets attributed to the individual, boiled down to a person’s choices such as “drug addiction”, “laziness”, “mental illness”, or mismanagement of money. But…

People become homeless because of poverty.

We may all know someone who has suffered from drug addiction. We may know someone who is lazy or is not careful with his or her money. Yet, not all of them are homeless. In the end, the difference between someone who is homeless and someone who is housed is poverty. Someone who is homeless no longer has the resources or a support network of friends or family to sustain them in stable housing. The difference, then, is poverty.

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