By Rachel Bidock
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter
At this time of year communities are stepping up to help those less fortunate, but what many people don’t know is that poverty has more than one face.
Clinton County faces poverty and homeless problems, explains Pauline Baert, the coordinator for Capital Area Community Services in nearby Lansing, which works toward ending the causes and conditions of poverty in Clinton and surrounding counties.
“We are finding them sleeping in their cars,” Baert said. “Families have come to us that have been living in camping trailers with no adequate heat or water.”
The numbers of homeless seemed to have increased in the Clinton County area, according to Baert.
“I’ve noticed an increase in the last couple of years,” Baert said. “We are doing case management with homeless and we do have some funds to assist and the numbers have definitely grown.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Clinton County had a lower unemployment rate in 2015 at 3.4 percent than the state of Michigan which during the same time which was at 5.4 percent. People tend to think of poverty as someone being on the streets not working, but it is more complicated than that Baert explained.
“Sometimes its underemployment, where folks might be working but they don’t have full-time hours or maybe the hourly rate is not high enough to afford an apartment,” Baert said.
Tonya Avery the Executive Director for SafeCenter, a non-profit organization determined to eliminate domestic and sexual abuse, explained how people can be working but still living in poverty.
“It’s called the working poor, it means that someone is actually working but they are not making enough to actually sustain themselves,” Avery said. “I think it’s one of the biggest issues that we see in Clinton County.”
Organizations such as SafeCenter and CACS do a lot to help everyone in their community.
“We have the Clinton County Housing and Homeless Coalition and it’s comprised of many
numbers in the community,” Avery said. “We not only try and meet their immediate needs but we try and address the systemic issues that are causing poverty.”
One of those systemic issues is called generational poverty.
“It’s where someone actually never learned how not to live in poverty,” Avery said. “If you’ve never lived in anything but poverty, you don’t know about saving your money or you don’t know about planning for the future.”
The community can help in many ways, Walk for Warmth is one of the ways that community members have been stepping up help those less fortunate.
Walk for Warmth is a 2 to 3 mile walk during the last weekend of February, where people donate to those in need of heating, explained Yolanda Botello, the supervisor of CACS’s Lansing office.
“Nothing is held back for administrative costs, 100 percent goes to help clients,” Botello said. “When I took over the center…the previous walk had about 7 walkers, we’re having an average of between 80 to 120 now.”
This event is held in the winter for one important reason.
“We do it during the cold months because it shows folks that come out to walk how cold somebody can be,” Botello said.
Although Clinton County may not have the amount of people a larger city has, it does not mean that people are not struggling.
“It’s still an issue,” Baert said. “I don’t think it matters the education level or the income level it can happen anywhere.”