Poverty rate rises in Georgia - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Poverty rate rises in Georgia

August 30, 2006

Albany--  37 million Americans live in poverty. New census statistics show some promise nationwide but the outlook isn't so good in Georgia. The number of people living below the poverty line here is going up. 

The good news is that nationwide, household incomes have increased and the poverty rate has stabilized. The bad news is that Georgia's poverty rate has gone up every year since 2002.  Some predict it could get worse if things don't change.

Ann Davis knows all about poverty. "There was a time in my life that I was homeless. I didn't have a place to live," says Davis.

For two years, Davis and her son were homeless on the streets of New York until they were given a chance. "God blessed us, so that we could help others," says Davis.

Now, she's known as Mother Davis to hundreds of people.  A few years ago, she founded Hope for the Hopeless, an outreach ministry in East Albany. "We feed the hungry and clothe the naked. We minister to them spiritually," says Davis.

Lately, that outreach has grown.  Davis has seen more people coming in for help.  She says some are hurricane victims.  Some others are lacking two things.

"Jobs, and a lot of people don't have education," says Davis.

"What we need is more skills for people to have," says Dr. Amit Singh.

Economist Dr. Amit Singh says education and skill-building are two essential things needed to reduce the poverty rate in Georgia. In 2005, that rate grew to 14.4 percent.  That's up from 11.2 percent in 2002.

"We see generation poverty where people live in poverty for a long time," says Singh. Singh feels work needs to be done to change that.  He blames slow job growth since the last recession as another poverty-aiding problem.

"When you have slow job growth combined with much lower income growth, poverty has not changed much," says Singh. Not much when you add it up but could it get worse?

"As long as we invest enough in education for our society, we can see the number improving," says Singh.

Mother Davis is using prayer and counseling to invest in the people of Georgia's future. "Find them a place to live. Give them furniture and give them hope because there is hope for the hopeless," says Davis.

It worked for her.  Now, she's moved from below the poverty line to not being above lending a helping hand.

Poverty isn't the only thing that's gone up in Georgia.  The number of people without health insurance also rose. Last year, about 1.7 million people were uninsured, up from 1.5 million the year before.

The poverty rate in Dougherty County is about 20 percent.

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