Census: Local poverty increased

Since the recession hit, more local families are living in poverty, monthly expenses are increasing and incomes are nearly stagnant.

In the past five years, the number of people and families living in poverty, especially families with children, has been on the rise.

Between 2005 and 2009, an average of 8.5 percent of families with children were living in poverty. But between 2010 and 2014, that number increased to 14 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The numbers reflect the impact on communities after the recession, said Matt Kinghorn, a demographer with the Indiana Business Research Center.

The period 2005 to 2009 was mostly before the recession, and the period between 2010 and 2014 is showing the aftermath of that, he said.

The data can be used by communities to find the top needs of a community and set aside resources and also measure if progress is being made, he said.

The data show that the impacts of the recession have lingered, even in recent years, he said.

For example, monthly median housing expenses, such as rent and utilities, increased for people living in rental homes by about 10 percent. And the percentage of people renting their home is also on the rise.

And at the same time, the median household income in the county stayed nearly the same, growing about 1 percent to $60,644, according to Census numbers.

“While we are seeing some improvements, it’s not completely across the board,” Kinghorn said.

Poverty rates have stayed high, showing that the low-income population is one of the groups that have been and continue to be impacted by the recession, he said.

“There is still quite a segment of the population that has continued to struggle in the last few years,” Kinghorn said.

The impacts are being noticed by local helping organizations, which are helping more families with food and other expenses.

The Interchurch Food Pantry in Franklin is serving record numbers of families, manager Shelia Morton said. Last month, the pantry had a record 1,656 visits and helped a total of 6,691 people, she said.

In addition to more families struggling, the pantry also is feeling the impact of families losing their food stamp benefits after new requirements were put into place, she said.

This time of year, around the holidays, is always tough for families who are struggling because they are trying to scrape enough money together to buy their family gifts. Often, that means they need help with food costs, she said.

“We step up and make sure we can offer what we can,” she said.

Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.