Guilford County agencies struggle amid rising poverty rate
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GREENSBORO -- Social services agencies are struggling to respond to the soaring poverty rate in Guilford County. Greensboro Urban Ministry said it was closing in on the annual fundraising goal for its Honor Card program but still needed volunteers to staff its programs. Guilford County schools also were encountering a growing number of children living below the poverty line.
The North Carolina Budget and Tax Center reported Guilford County's poverty rate jumped from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 17.7 percent in 2010. Greensboro Urban Ministry's executive director said the rate likely will have climbed again in 2011.
"A lot of people are really suffering now with this terrible economy with the unemployment rate very high," said Rev. Mike Aiken.
That means more people need the Ministry's winter emergency shelters.
"We're not only housing 100 people here each night, we've added extra beds here, so, we have about 125 people here,” said Aiken. “[We have] another 100 people at our winter emergency sites at different places around the city."
The estimated child poverty rate nearly doubled over the last decade to just over 37 percent, which has been a challenge for Guilford County Schools.
"We know that there are quite a few that have not identified themselves,” said Susan Eubanks, supervisor for homeless and transitional services. “There's a stigma attached to this."
She said he district was always in need of donations.
"Gloves and mittens and hats," said Eubanks. "These families don't have them. We always need clothes. One of the largest needs in this population is underwear."
Urban Ministry's annual Honor Card program accepts donations for gift cards bearing the artwork of Greensboro artist William Mangum.
"And it's through these cards that people purchase, actually they're making a donation,” said Mangum. “All of the proceeds go to area shelters to support the needy in our communities."
The Ministry is part of the umbrella group Partners Ending Homelessness, whose countywide mission is clear.
"We have a blueprint of how we can do it,” said Aiken. “All we need is the support of the community, so one day there will be an end to homelessness in our community and hopefully hunger, as well."
Figures from the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center show the poverty rate in Guilford County to be highest among Latino families. In 2010, more than 29 percent of all Latinos were living below the poverty line.