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poverty

More than 90% of school children in Lake County qualify for free or reduced price lunch. To make sure they continue to eat healthy meals once school is out, the county’s school district offers free breakfast and lunch over the summer to any child in the county.

For our State of Opportunity project, Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra dropped by the cafeteria one sunny afternoon to check it out. 

Courtesy of Children First

Michigan has the highest rate of child poverty in the Great Lakes region, according to a report released Monday morning.

As Michigan Radio’s Jake Neher reported, data from the 2013 Kids Count survey, a nationwide study that ranks states based on child well-being, shows that about 560,000 children in Michigan live in poverty.

That statistic has increased by 6% over the last several years.

In other areas, the state does show some signs of improvement.

Only 4% of kids in Michigan are uninsured. Nationwide, about 7% of children lack health insurance.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Childhood poverty rate high in Michigan

This year’s Kids Count report from the Michigan League for Public Policy and the Annie E. Casey Foundation says Michigan ranks 31st nationwide for overall child well-being. Michigan League for Public Policy President Gilda Jacobs told Michigan Radio's Jake Neher that state lawmakers should restore Michigan’s tax credits for low-income families and ease restrictions on welfare cash assistance.

Possible changes in home foreclosure rules

Legislation in Lansing could change home foreclosure rules in Michigan. Currently, after a foreclosure, homeowners get six months after it gets sold at auction to regain the property. Under the proposed changes, a homeowner would lose that redemption period if the house is damaged. The idea is to stop homeowners going through foreclosure from damaging the home.

Neeta Delaney, director of the Michigan Foreclosure Task Force, told Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith she worries the provision would only make the foreclosure process more contentious.

Michigan beachgoers lost 755 days of water access

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's annual beach quality report says Michigan beachgoers lost 755 days of water access in 2012 because of pollution. The most common cause for beach closings was the presence of bacteria from human or animal feces. Altogether, 166 beaches were closed for a total of 755 days in 2012. That's down from 913 days  in 2011.

There's a three story pile of black petroleum coke big enough to cover an entire city block piling up in Southwest Detroit. It's a by-product of oil sands drilling from Alberta, Canada.

On today's show: we asked why is this high-sulfur, high-carbon waste piling up along the Detroit River?

And, the Board of State Canvassers met today in Lansing. We got an update on ballot initiatives that you could be voting on.

Homeless
SamPac / creative commons

When one thinks of poverty in America, or in Michigan, what image comes to mind? Where are poor people living?

Chances are, an image of an inner-city neighborhood flashes in your mind.

Well, that would be wrong.

The Brookings Institute this week released its study called "Confronting Suburban Poverty in America."

Bottom line: poverty is moving into the suburbs.

Both here in Michigan and across the country, the suburbs are home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country.

Scott Allard is an associate professor at the University of Chicago and a research affiliate of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan.

He joined us in the studio to talk about what this study means in terms of how we think about poverty in our state.

Listen to the full interview above.

Mistakes Kids Make

The State of Opportunity team found this short animation put together by a campaign called "Mistakes Kids Make."

The campaign is described as a "storytelling project to remind us that the mistakes we make as kids should not ruin the rest of our lives." It's funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

Take a look at the video here:

Mother and three small kids getting ready for school.
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

As part of our State of Opportunity project, we’re following parents as they struggle to get off public assistance and make a better future for their children. This is an update on one of those families.

I first interviewed Keisha Johnson on a steamy summer day last June. Johnson, 25, grew up poor and is still poor to this day. But she has three reasons she wants to climb out poverty, and their names are Kaleb, Jurnee, and Alan, Jr.

The Michigan League for Public Policy released its annual Kids Count data book yesterday. Unfortunately, it didn’t get a lot of attention in most of the media.

To the extent that I did hear or read about the Kids Count report across our state, the coverage emphasized two things:

Much of it focused on how kids were doing in a particular area, since for the first time, the report ranked individual counties on a wide variety of indicators. Beyond that, we did hear that the overall well-being of our children got significantly worse in the years two thousand and five to two thousand and eleven. That’s something you might expect, given the Great Recession.

But to me, that’s not the real news, and none of the media gave this report nearly the attention it deserved. This report, which anyone can read online, reveals that more than half a million Michigan children are living in poverty. Half a million!

Homeless
SamPac / creative commons

Bridge Magazine's Ron French reports on legislation that could be "a nail in the coffin" for efforts to halt welfare rule changes in Michigan."

The effort to remove 15,000 families from cash assistance in Michigan was billed as a cost-cutting measure. A necessary step for a state "that can no longer afford" to pay the benefits.

Years ago, I put together a  series of panel discussions on the American dream. The people involved differed  a good deal as to what the dream really meant, but they agreed on some  things.

Everybody thought part of it meant that America was a place  where if you worked hard, you could get ahead. And that America was a place  where a decent life was available for all.

Tragically, that’s not as  true as it used to be. Today, the Michigan League for Public Policy, formerly  known as the League for Human Services, unveiled a new national study on  incomes.

Five things to know about early childhood brain development

Nov 14, 2012
http://developingchild.harvard.edu / Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University

There's a lot of research that shows just how important the first few years of a child's life are to their cognitive development. But for those of us who aren't medical doctors the information can be rather confusing. 

Stateside: Poverty simulations

Nov 12, 2012
Washtenaw Housing Alliance

To better inform those unfamiliar with the challenges faced by the impoverished and homeless, Julie Steiner will host a poverty simulation tomorrow night at the Michigan Theater.

Steiner, the director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance, spoke with Cyndy about Washtenaw County’s poverty problem.

One woman's fight to end the cycle of poverty

Nov 7, 2012
Keisha Johnson

Economic mobility for Americans at the bottom of the income scale seems to be fading. Today more than 40 percent of children born into poverty stay in poverty as adults.

State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra profiles one woman trying hard to be on the right side of that statistic.

What this election means for low-income families

Oct 31, 2012
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

After months of political rancor and over $2 billion raised, the 2012 presidential race is almost over. Yet with only six days left until Election Day, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have largely ignored the issue of poverty.

Household incomes are down while the number of people living in poverty is up. That’s according to new data from the US Census Bureau. Michigan’s numbers mirror national trends.

State of Opportunity / Michigan Radio

Join us this afternoon at 2 p.m. for a special call-in show. We'll examine the disparities that exist in our society, and how they make it more difficult for children to break out of the cycle of poverty.

Michigan Radio reporters are working on a new three-year initiative to explore the issue of children living in poverty here Michigan. State of Opportunity captures the stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet. We’re going beyond the statistics and exploring what it takes to make Michigan a place where our every kid have a chance to build a positive future.

“Our project kind of has two ways at looking at these issues. We look at statistics, we look at data, and we look at trends. But then when we talk to the individuals, the individual stories don’t always match up with those trends,” reporter Dustin Dwyer said.

Reporter Jennifer Guerra is currently working on a documentary about the infant mortality rate in the state. She says the information she found was staggering. “Infant mortality is still a big problem in Michigan. We’re above the national average for the past twenty years,” she said.

American Enterprise Institute

Libertarian author and commentator Charles Murray sat down with State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer yesterday to discuss his new book, Coming Apart, which highlights the growing stratification of wealth in America. 

courtesy Melissa and Jeffrey Rice

Today, the State of Opportunity team turned their microphone over to 9-year-old Leah Rice.

She reflects on her family, highlights of her summer and her thoughts on going back to school.

(She was placed in an advanced class, to which she says "uh, Boo-yah!".)

You can hear Leah's story here.

Last week, Dustin Dwyer from our State of Opportunity team showed us how upward mobility isn't so easy in the U.S., especially for disadvantaged kids. This week, Dustin shows us how some might break that pattern.

Nearly a quarter of all kids in Michigan live in poverty. We want to believe these kids have an equal shot at success in life, but there’s a pile of research that suggests otherwise.

Moving up the economic ladder in Michigan

May 10, 2012

Despite a tough state economy, people in Michigan are better able to move up the economic ladder than people in almost every other state. That's according to a report released by the Pew Research Center today.

The study found overall economic status doesn't change much over people's lives.

Erin Currier is from the Pew Center. She says the study did not look at why certain states did better than others. But she says there are some general lessons.

“Certain drivers of mobility are extremely powerful and those drivers include things like educational attainment, savings and asset building, and neighborhood poverty during childhood among others,” Currier.

The study found states with the most economic mobility are New York, New Jersey and Maryland.

Two weekends ago, I went to something called the Bow-Wow brunch, at an upscale hotel in suburban Detroit. The purpose was to raise money to support the Michigan Humane Society.

Kids in Poverty

Feb 23, 2012

Three hundred and forty-one thousand. That’s the number of children in our state living in what is officially known these days as “areas of concentrated poverty.” Our ancestors would have called where they lived “the worst slums.”

We are talking about homes that sometimes lack heat and light, that are surrounded by crack houses and other houses that have burned down, places where life is too often nasty, brutish and short.

Two-thirds of all children in Detroit live in such neighborhoods, streets like the one where a nine-month-old baby was killed by a bullet from an AK-47 assault rifle Monday.

But most poor children don’t live in Detroit. Some live in rural poverty, in Roscommon or Chippewa Counties up north, where alcoholism is high. Yes, a few of these children will escape, thanks to the efforts of a parent, teacher or mentor.

Somehow they will get a halfway decent education, a job and a better life, though that is becoming increasingly hard to do. But most won’t, just as most kids whose dreams are based on a basketball won’t make it to the NBA. Instead, the numbers of the desperately poor are swelling. According to a new report funded by the Annie E, Casey Foundation, there were a hundred and twenty-five thousand more poor kids in our state in twenty-ten than ten years earlier.

Class Warfare

Jan 25, 2012

I started listening to the state of the union address last night, which I thought was one of President Obama’s better speeches.

But I lost my concentration some distance into the speech, when the president was talking about fairness. He said, “Now, you can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay as least as much as his secretary in taxes?

About one-fourth of kids in Michigan live in poverty. That’s according to the Kids Count report from the Michigan League for Human Services. The report says the percent of kids living in poverty and “extreme poverty” has risen dramatically in the past decade, as has the rate of kids who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell is with the League. She says poverty is pervasive throughout the state.

“There’s sort of a perception out there of ‘if people would just look for a job then they wouldn’t have to rely on public support. But when you look at what’s happened throughout Michigan counties and their employment rates, it’s a pretty staggering picture thinking about trying to look for a job in this job market," Zehnder-Merrell says.

She says the good news from the report is teen births continue to decline. The number of teen deaths and the rate of high school dropouts are also declining.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Nearly 500 volunteers served a hot meal to more than 1,300 people in need Wednesday night. That’s a record for the Holland Rescue Mission which has held the annual dinner for nearly 20 years. The non-profit runs a number of programs to help lift people from poverty.

Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

We've been talking a lot about class, what it means, and how we define it.

We took a trip to St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. They’re called the Twin Cities, but they're different.

In Benton Harbor forty-three percent of families live below the poverty line.

In St. Joseph it’s six percent.

And, families in St. Joseph earn more than twice as much as their neighbors across the river.

Here's a video produced by Meg Cramer and Mercedes Mejia who spoke to residents on both sides of the river.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of volunteers in neon yellow t-shirts handed out winter coats and hats, helped answer specific questions and enroll people in dozens of assistance programs that already exist.

48-year old George McCree lives in Kalamazoo, but he doesn’t have a permanent job or home right now. He got help finding temporary shelter at the Project Connect event last May. That inspired him to start volunteering at a soup kitchen in town.

Poverty growing, changing around the Midwest

Nov 3, 2011
Mike McCaffrey / flickr

Stereotypes of people living in poverty are persistent.

But Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution says these stereotypes are becoming less accurate.

A report released today by the Institution shows poverty is growing and affecting many it didn’t touch before.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Concentrated poverty rose in Midwestern cities, but the number of people living in very poor neighborhoods is rising faster in the suburbs.
  • Poverty still affects communities of color in the inner cities. But, over the last decade poverty has grown among the number of well-educated white people living outside cities.
  • In the last decade concentrations of poverty have crept back up. That's where 40 percent of the people in a particular neighborhood live below the federal poverty line. These kinds of concentrations were on the decline up until 2000.
  • These concentrations of poverty almost doubled in the Midwest over the last decade. 

See more highlights, and read the entire report, at the Brookings Institution website.

Inform our coverage: How has the growth in poverty touched your life?

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s rising poverty rate took on a human face in Lansing today as a few hundred people waited outside in the morning cold for a special event to help the capital city’s homeless.   Dozens of social service agencies took part in the event on Lansing’s south side.  

Patricia Wheeler is with the Greater Lansing Homeless Resolution Network.   She says more and more Michiganders are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.   Wheeler says this event is intended to lend them a hand.  

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