Thursday, September 20, 2007

Our very poor neighbors

Last April, our staff conducted a survey of persons who came to our Haskell Avenue Resource seeking some sort of assistance, referral or intervention. The survey was conducted on one day only.

The results below represent the responses of just 37 participants who were heads of household--a low number of those actually in the center at the time (representing approximately 16% of the family units served during the day).

The high number of children present on the survey day likely contributed to the low number of households who felt undistracted enough to answer our questions! It also seems that a disproportionate number of respondents report homelessness of one kind or another, which also affects the results here.

Here's what this small sample revealed about this particular set of our neighbors on this one day:

Basic Demographic Data

Number of adults 18 years of age or older in household: 1.8

Percentage of households with children 17 years of age or younger: 31% (Note: from other research data we know that this result is artificially low and reflects an anomaly in our survey)

Average age of respondent: 45

Percent working at a paying job: 32%

Total hours worked in a week: 9

Amount paid for housing costs, monthly: $350; high $750; low $0

Amount paid for utilities, monthly: $37; high $600; low $0

Amount spent in an average week on food: $58; high $200; low $0

Household's current total monthly income from all sources: $622; high $2,000; low $0

Percentage of respondents with no income: 17%

Percent who have no permanent home: 49%

Number of months in current place: 6 months

Number of times moved in last 2 years: 1.5

Percentage with less than a high school education: 42%

Association with CDM and the Resource Center

Average number of miles traveled to Resource Center: 4.5

Number of months visiting the Resource Center: 7

Number of days that the food received will last: 7

Percent provided information about other needed services from a case manager: 59%

Percent that used the agency(s) referred to: 38%

Percent who have used another CDM program: 26%

Percent who have used Community Health Services: 0%

Percent who have used the facilities at Roseland Homes: 7%

Percent who have used the Technology Learning Center: 11%

Percent who have used the LAW Center: 11%

Percent who have used other CDM programs: 8%

Financial Strength

Percent who say the assistance received at the Resource Center has helped them deal with their financial crisis: 91%

Percent who visit a food pantry--CDM's or any others--at least once a month: 47%

Percent who cut the size of meals or skip meals because there wasn't enough money for food in the last 12 months: 61%

Percent who ate less than they felt they should because there wasn't enough money for food in the last 12 months: 66%

Percent who were ever hungry but didn't eat because they couldn't afford enough food in the last 12 months: 41%

People who ever had to choose between buying the food they need and paying for medicine or medical care in the last 12 months: 42%

People who ever had to choose between buying the food they need and paying for utilities in the last 12 months: 50%

Percent who ever had to choose between buying the food they need and paying for rent or mortgage in the last 12 months: 47%

The results of our "picture in time" study reveal the struggles facing low-income individuals and families living in the inner city communities of Dallas, Texas. Trying to visualize what life would be like for me if I were facing similar circumstances and limitations is sobering indeed.

Update on my father: thanks for all who have inquired about my dad's condition following his surgery. He is doing very well. His surgeon was pleased with the outcome. Now, the challenge is regaining enough strength to be able to return home. Please continue to keep him and my mother in your prayers. Thanks so much!


SeriousSummer said...

Thirty-five years ago, when I was a 20 year old college student, I remember going to the grocery store with one dollar ($1.00) to buy food that had to last 4 days until I got paid again. I bought two cans of tomato soup and a loaf of bread. Prices were lower then.
I had a 1/2 can of soup and toast for dinner, and toast for breakfast for those four days.

That's the last time I've really been hungry not by choice--since then I've fasted for reasons of principal or dieted to lose weight, but even then, thirty-five years ago, if I wasn't so proud I could have gotten money for food from friends or family. Still, I will never forget being hungry and not being able to do anything about it. I remember it like yesterday. I remember being hungry and knowing that I had to wait until Friday, payday, to eat.

Two thirds of the people in this survey were hungry because they couldn't afford food. More than half of those people had a spouse or child depending on them for food as well.

I cannot imagine how bad it must feel knowing your wife, or husband, or child is hungary and you can't feed them.

If you can understand what that must feel like, then you will understand what we see every day. People who are hungry. People who are ill. People who lack shelter.

People that endure without the very basic needs for life, but that we can only help a little, making their life somewhat endurable, but people that are still hungry, sick, and without homes.

A day spent upon such people--seeing their courage and resolution--will break your heart. I find my heart broken every day.

Larry James said...

Powerful words, serioussummer. I am grateful on a daily basis for you and your leadership here.