With more suburban residents seeking assistance, many suburban communities aren’t prepared:
Suburban-based social service agencies have been swamped. A survey of non-profit social service providers in suburban communities in the Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles metropolitan areas, conducted in 2009 and 2010 by researchers at Brookings, found that roughly nine in ten were seeing increased numbers of people seeking help compared to the previous year. Many had suffered cuts in financial support, prompting them to lay off staff and place needy people on wait-lists.
“In many communities, there just aren’t the organizations needed to provide job training, counseling or emergency assistance,” said Scott Allard, a political scientist at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and the lead author of the survey. “Poverty is a recent phenomenon.”
One key piece of data from the survey underscores the corrosive effects of suburban poverty on the American identity: Nearly three-fourths of the suburban non-profits were seeing significant numbers of people turning up who had never previously sought help.
1. The problem is perhaps even worse than just growing numbers as more budgets of suburban communities have tightened. Where in municipal budgets is there money for this?
2. This reminds of a talk I heard from a homelessness researcher some years ago who suggested that a good number of the homeless who go to shelters are people who are temporarily homeless. On one hand, there is a persistent minority of the homeless who are always homeless but most are there because of temporary circumstances like a job loss, eviction, or medical costs. Will this be the case for the suburban poor – are these long-term poor residents or would these numbers shrink considerably if the economy picked up?
3. How dispersed is the poor population in the suburbs? I have not seen any maps or measures where exactly the suburban poor live. Knowing American residential patterns, we might suspect that the suburban poor tend to cluster in less wealthy/more affordable suburbs while wealthier suburbs have barely seen an increase in the number of poor residents, particularly since wealthier suburbs would not want such residents.