Currently standing at 15.1 percent from 2010 census data, the nation's poverty rate for 2011 will officially be released later this year, but a survey of economists, think tanks and academics foresees that number climbing as high as 15.7 percent.
"The analysts' estimates suggest that some 47 million people in the U.S., or 1 in 6, were poor last year. An increase of one-tenth of a percentage point to 15.2 percent would tie the 1983 rate, the highest since 1965. The highest level on record was 22.4 percent in 1959, when the government began calculating poverty figures," stated AP Writer Hope Yen. "Poverty is closely tied to joblessness. While the unemployment rate improved from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 8.9 percent in 2011, the employment-population ratio remained largely unchanged, meaning many discouraged workers simply stopped looking for work. Food stamp rolls, another indicator of poverty, also grew."
Locally, the 2010 poverty rate was 14 percent for Bartow County, while the state came in at 15.7 percent. With poverty levels expected to rise, Tina Grubbs, executive director of Bartow Collaborative, looks to community efforts for continued support.
Grubbs sees the effects of economic challenges reflected in the personal struggles of Bartow County residents. The housing market crash sent values plummeting and homeowners found themselves underwater. With foreclosure rates skyrocketing, poverty has not only increased, but its determining factors also have changed. Grubbs hopes to address these issues with new and evolving strategies. Recent planning has identified challenges and formed committees to tackle each issue within the community.
"We just finished our five-year planning process and one of our priority areas for the next five years is homelessness and poverty," Grubbs said. "The one thing that we are seeing here and across the state is that poverty is not just for the poor, it's now the working poor. We have so many that are working poor because of the situation with the economy. That trend is everywhere across the United States."
Strategic teams have been created to develop programs combating specific problems. Cartersville City Schools Homeless Liaison Paula Womack and Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter Executive Director Jessica Mitcham are co-chairs for the homelessness and poverty strategic team with Bartow Collaborative.
Looking at projects from across the state and the nation, the strategic team is looking at plans to provide temporary housing paired with educational and personal development services.
"This strategy team is going to be looking at a lot of different programs," Grubbs said. "It's really about life skills and it's about parenting skills, it's about money management, but it's also getting people back work ready -- getting them their GED because a lot of people have had to leave school to support their family."
Bartow Collaborative aids community members in a variety of areas, but has a focus on helping children. This Saturday, Bartow Give A Kid A Chance, an outreach of Bartow Collaborative, will provide about 1,600 children with a backpack of school supplies, a haircut, a healthcare screening and a shirt.
With 58 percent of Cartersville city and Bartow County students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, Bartow Collaborative helps send home food with more than 600 students every weekend during the school year.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this article.