By Alexis Howell
Listen Up Lansing, Staff Reporter
Poverty is slowly rising every year in Lansing.
According to the Census Bureau in 2014, the percentage of families whose income was below the poverty level was at 12.1 percent, in 2013, the rate was 12.0 percent. The percentage of families whose income was below the poverty level in 2012 was 11.7 percent, 2011 came in at 11.1 percent and 2010 was the lowest at 10.6 percent.
Steve Anderson, director and professor of Michigan State University’s School of Social Work and poverty expert, said poverty can be described as absolute poverty and relative poverty.
Anderson described absolute poverty as a lack of provision of basic things, and not having enough resources to purchase things. He said U.S. standards include what is needed to get by.
Relative poverty, according to Anderson, is a sense inequality. For example, how do you compare to rich people in the society that you live in and what is the set of standards for that community?
The city of Lansing is considered to have relative poverty, because they are being compared to other people living in that city.
“In an international community,” said Anderson, “Many people may live on one or two dollars a day so these standards of living can change based off their community.”
In short, Anderson said, poverty is not having basic stuff to survive or advance.
Shaunta Williams, a resident of Lansing, said she believes there are too many resources in Lansing so people are not hungry for success.
“Where I’m from, people have to work for everything, their mentality is different,” said Williams.
There are so many agencies that are willing to help so people don’t work for anything, according to Williams.
“There are 20 different Christian agencies that help low-income families, the mission feeds you everyday, shelters will give you Section 8 (housing aid) and pay your rent for six months, and there are plenty of agencies that will pay your bills, or give you clothes,” said Williams.
Anderson said that there are many resources that help keep people out of poverty. For example, the government provides resources such as jobs, and Social Security. He said that if people don’t have a good job they will ultimately fail. However, if people are congregated together in a culture of not doing anything, that can have an impact of the community.
Alexis Sims, resident of Lansing agrees with Anderson by saying that some times poverty is a mindset. “Once people become impoverished, they become comfortable and when they are around like-minded people, they don’t have motivation to get up and do something to change their situation.”
“People are pretty creative when it comes to surviving,” said Anderson. “People look down on them and say they are wasteful and take advantage of things.”
He said people living in poverty may live with friends or relatives and only feel the need to get by at a basic level. People who are not living in poverty take certain things for granted.
Children can be affected negatively according to Anderson. If they don’t eat, they lack proper development and it also affects them in school. Schools have breakfast and lunch programs because of children that may not eat at home. He also went on to say that schools get a lot more money and teachers when they are not in an area of poverty.
According to the Census Bureau, the number of children under the age of 18 living in poverty has grown since 2010. In 2010, the percentage was 20.5 percent, 2011 it was 21.8 percent, in 2012, it was 22.8 percent, 2013 was listed at 23.6 percent, and in 2014 it reached its highest at 23.7 percent.
Poverty becomes a cycle unless they find ways to overcome living in poverty. “People can get married and instead of having one income, they have two,” said Anderson.