It is very troublesome to read that poverty rates are back on the rise across the Erie region after two consecutive years of decline. 29.2% of the city’s residents (28,114 people) and 45.5% (9,649) of its children under 18 are living below federal poverty guidelines. Two years ago the rate was 25.7% of adults and 36.5% of children were living in poverty in the city of Erie. Unfortunately, poverty and disability go hand in hand. The poverty rate for working people with disabilities is 2.5 times higher than for people without disabilities. They struggle to secure employment, locate affordable housing and find needed medical care.
We also know that the many conditions of poverty pose challenges to educational success. Impoverished children are less likely to attend preschool, often experience inadequate nutrition, have limited access to medical resources and may live in dangerous home situations. I’ve seen many of our students move frequently, have inadequate housing and, very sadly, experience homelessness.
I agree with Mary Bula, of Erie Together, in her statement, “poverty is a tremendous challenge in our community and it will take a community response to address it.” I’m proud to say that Erie has begun this task. I would only add that the intersection of disability and poverty must also be addressed if we are to break this connection.