January Poverty Month
By Katherine Miller
CROWLEY – More than 30 million Americans today, including one in six children, live below the official poverty line. Millions struggle from month to month to buy basic necessities, or lose their life savings because of health emergencies or job loss.
Poverty by definition, is the deprivation of common necessities such as water, food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water. In further description, it includes the lack of access to opportunities such as education and employment which aid the escape from poverty.
American poverty rates are now at their highest levels since this type of data was first available in the year 1975. Therefore, the month of January has been deemed National Poverty in America Awareness Month by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Since its beginning in 1970, the CCHD has worked to transform lives and communities, steadily focusing on breaking the cycle of poverty in communities across the United States.
The main objectives that this organization focuses on during the month include, releasing a powerful public service campaign to raise awareness of poverty in America; encouraging the editorial media to focus on poverty; educating the public to be sensitive to the needs of those in poverty and to treat these people with respect; holding events in Catholic schools and public settings to make sure poverty is top-of-mind for all Americans.
Exactly what defines poverty level? The U.S. Census Bureau defines poor families as those with cash incomes below that of $16,079 a year for a family of three, or $20,614 for a family of four. Louisiana is ranked third among the top ten states with the highest percentage of children under 18 living in poverty. Nearly 28 percent of children in our state live below poverty level.
The ASSIST agency, located in downtown Crowley, serves Acadia, Vermilion and Jeff Davis parishes by providing information on the availability of services in the parish, such as welfare, food stamps, employment, social security aide and community services.
“We also provide assistance with emergency utilities and rent for those in need,” informed Sharon Clement, Executive Director of the ASSIST program. “A few new additions are three day-cares west of Crowley in the new subdivision for working mothers needing assistance, where both private and state pay options are available.”
Clement also spoke of the Individual Development Account (IDA), through which the program matches a certain percentage of a family’s savings, which must be income from employment, that goes toward the purchase of a home. Prior to and following the purchase, families must attend informative training classes for budget management and preventing foreclosures.
“This month beginning on the 16th, we will offer the Volunteer Tax Assistance program, or VITA, for no charge to those who qualify,” she added.
For more information about services offered by the ASSIST Agency, visit them at 11 North Parkerson Avenue in Crowley, or contact them by phone at 788-7550.