SW Georgia on worst poverty list - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

SW Georgia on worst poverty list

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  The Albany metro area is one of the ten most impoverished cities in the nation, according to the latest census bureau statistics.  Nationwide, the recession caused incomes to fall and poverty to skyrocket.

In Albany, poverty is among the worst in the country, and it's only expected to get worse.

The American Community Service report found that the Albany metro area, Dougherty, Lee, Baker, Terrell,and Worth Counties, have a per capita income of $21,000 far less than half the U.S. median income. The bottom 20 percent is only surviving on about $8,000.

The news that Albany is one of the impoverished communities hit officials hard.  Mayor Willie Adams said, "It's nothing to be proud of, but we certainly have to address these problems."

But Erica Harris is one of the 26% of the people in Albany living below the poverty line. "There are many days in my situation when the lights might be about to be cut off. My husband might not be working many hours. But I don't give up."

Harris was picking up a food donation from the Lord's Pantry, to feed herself and husband and five children. The charity says the number of people needing help is growing.

"They keep coming back. and we've seen more new people this year than I've seen since I've been down here, ten years," Tom Wilburn of The Lord's Pantry said.

Census figures are frightening. The per capita income is $21,359. The Poverty level for a family of four is $22,000. More than 8% of the population earns less than 50% of that. Seventeen percent of the population receives food stamps, and almost one fifth receives public health care.

Chamber officials say poverty is not a new problem, but this rating does not help.

"Our area has suffered from generational poverty for decades," said Albany Area Chamber of Commerce President Catherine Glover. "We suffer from situational poverty right now because of the economy and the recession. However we have strong work ethic, we have folks who want to work."

"In fact I think that could be the root of some of the issues we have, just the collapse of the family unit within the community. So there are so many fronts the issue needs to be attacked on. And it takes all hands on deck to meet the problem head on," said Ted Clem of Albany Dougherty Economic Development Commission President. 

And the Economic Policy Institute projects that over the next two years poverty will increase. The Lord's Pantry worries if they will be able to continue to help Erica Harris and the rest of the region if it does.

Chamber officials this afternoon announced a new mentoring program they are launching with community leaders, called Move the Mountain, to try to break the cycle of poverty through community help.

Three other southern cities are on the most impoverished list. They are Macon, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

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