bjbjLULU JEFFREY BROWN: Now, two stories about
the changing portrait of America, first, a different kind of life in the suburbs. Between
2000 and 2010, the number of people living below the poverty line in U.S. suburbs increased
by more than 50 percent, a trend that accelerated during the recession. It’s happening in places
that have long been middle-class, as well as in richer neighborhoods. Elizabeth Brackett
of WTTW Chicago has our story. ELIZABETH BRACKETT: DuPage County, Ill., is one of the wealthiest
counties in the country. Comfortable homes sit on tree-lined streets in the suburb of
Wheaton eight miles west of Chicago. Upscale restaurants and shops line the historic downtown.
But there is another side to DuPage County, one that would have been unthinkable a few
years ago. It includes packed food pantries and crowds at the county welfare office. Candace
King coordinates human services in DuPage County, and she has watched poverty grow.
CANDACE KING, Federation of Human Services Reform: It’s exploded. In the 16 years that
I have been in my job, it has gone from something that was rarely encountered in this community,
and certainly no one thought it was here, to an issue that we encounter every day. ELIZABETH
BRACKETT: Over the last 20 years, poverty in DuPage County has grown by 185 percent.
Nearly 60,000 people here live in poverty, defined by the federal government as earning
$22,350 a year for a family of four. And now a Brookings Institute analysis of census data
finds that, for the first time in the Chicago area, there are more people in poverty in
the suburbs than in the city. In this Wheaton housing complex, 11 of the townhomes are in
foreclosure. After almost two years of trying, 43-year-old Catherine Aravosis was finally
able to renegotiate her mortgage and save her home. But she and her two children live
far below the poverty line. Aravosis had a middle-class upbringing. Her father was a
college professor, and, in 2008, she got her second master’s degree, this one in elementary
education. But, because of cuts in state education funding, she hasn’t been able to find a full-time
teaching job. Last year, she made $11,000 as a substitute teacher, far less than what
she needs to support her two children. CATHERINE ARAVOSIS, homeowner: It has been hard for
me because I want to provide for them in a way my parents provided for me. I never knew
what my parents made. I never had to worry about a thing. We just lived a really stable,
typical middle-class existence. And for my children, they don’t have that sense of security
that I had. They know when I’m stressed. And that hurts. WOMAN: You will get one item out
of the bucket behind him. ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Aravosis is part of the newly poor demographic
that account for much of the rise in poverty in the suburbs. Ten years ago, she and her
husband, an architect, were earning a six-figure income and living in a five-bedroom home in
Wheaton. They divorced in 2004. Her former husband’s architectural commissions dried
up in 2008, and he has had trouble making child support payments. Aravosis tried to
get Medicaid for her children. But the state threatened to take her former husband’s architect
license because of lack of child support, and she backed off. CATHERINE ARAVOSIS: It’s
those days when you get up and you really don’t know what you’re going to give your
kids for dinner. And it can be a full-time job finding out, how am I going to get glasses?
The prescription is a year-old. And where am I going to — you know, how do I go and
get her the shots she needs? She’s going to sixth grade — not having the health insurance,
not having the basic things that people take for granted, being able to get their kid to
the doctor, you know, when they come home and say, we need $5 for school. There’s always
something. And, sometimes, you have to say, I don’t have it. I just don’t have it. I’m
sorry. ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Today, dinner comes from the local food pantry. She cooks in her
Crock-Pot or microwave, since she can’t afford to repair her broken stove. Like many of the
suburban poor, Aravosis never thought she would need help buying food. CATHERINE ARAVOSIS:
I didn’t expect to be using the food pantry, especially not on a regular basis. But, you
know, I’m working, and I’m not making enough money to make ends meet. So, it’s very humbling,
but I swallowed my pride and I went to the People’s Resource Center, and I asked for
help. Okay. I have to have pumpkin, right? ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Aravosis can fill up a
shopping cart once a week at the People’s Resource Center. The number of people using
this food pantry in Wheaton has gone up by 200 percent in the last five years. There
was a 30 percent jump in 2008 alone. MELISSA TRAVIS, program director, People’s Resource
Center: Make sure all the cart handles are clean. ELIZABETH BRACKETT: The resource sister’s
program director, Melissa Travis, says many of their clients are new to poverty. MELISSA
TRAVIS: Oftentimes, the first time they come, they break into tears because they can’t imagine
that they would ever need help in a way like this. They ve been people that have paid taxes.
They re people that have volunteered and helped in places like this in the past. And now,
suddenly, they have to go and seek out that assistance. So we give a lot of hugs. ELIZABETH
BRACKETT: Mary Kay Hopf could have used a hug the day she came to the food pantry. A
registered nurse, Hopf has been out of work for several years. She grew up in Wheaton
and enjoyed a far different lifestyle. MARY KAY HOPF, registered nurse: My dad had a good
job. We had the big house and the cars and all those other things, new wardrobe for school
when that time of the year came around. I think that I’m one of the people who didn’t
have to go without much. And, yeah, it’s a whole flip side of that. ELIZABETH BRACKETT:
Three months of unemployment brought Mariano Menendez and his family to the food pantry
for the first time. Did you think you would ever wind up coming to a food pantry… MARIANO
MENENDEZ, unemployed: No, no, of course not, never, never. I ve had good jobs. I have ve
made good income. I have — I — never in my wildest dreams. So, yes, I’m definitely
very grateful for this. It’s an amazing, amazing service that they offer here. ELIZABETH BRACKETT:
The dramatic increase in poverty in suburban DuPage County mirrors the increase in poverty
in suburban areas across the country. That leaves human service agencies struggling to
meet the needs in their communities. Yet federal, state and local funding still goes disproportionately
to urban areas. That lack of federal and state resources to fight suburban poverty leaves
existing agencies overwhelmed. CANDACE KING: All of the growth in poverty in the state
of Illinois has been in the suburban area. My organization did an analysis of federal
funding and some state funding and private philanthropic funding, and found that the
city of Chicago is getting up to four and five times more per poor person than DuPage
County is. ELIZABETH BRACKETT: That is not news to Melissa Travis at the People’s Resource
Center. MELISSA TRAVIS: We are stretched. About six weeks ago, the food pantry was as
empty as I have ever seen it in six-and-a-half years. We were trying to get through to our
next delivery, and just hoping that we had enough food to give everybody what they needed.
It’s been a devastating year in that regard. ELIZABETH BRACKETT: Unlike many of the newly
poor who have a hard time finding the resources that are available, Catherine Aravosis has
taken advantage of all the programs at the People’s Resource Center. She has gotten clothes
for herself and her kids and used the job counselors in her effort to find a full-time
teaching job. But having to accept help has changed the way she thinks of herself. CATHERINE
ARAVOSIS: I always thought of myself as middle-class. I had a middle-class upbringing. I had middle-class
expectations. But the reality is that I’m not living a middle-class lifestyle anymore.
So, no, I don’t think so. I think I have fallen out of the middle class. ELIZABETH BRACKETT:
Like many in her situation, she doesn’t see much hope of things improving. And while she
wants to stay in Wheaton, life in suburbia is far different than she ever imagined it
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place JEFFREY BROWN: Now, two stories about the changing portrait of America, first, a
different kind of life in the suburbs Normal Microsoft Office Word JEFFREY BROWN: Now,
two stories about the changing portrait of America, first, a different kind of life in
the suburbs Title Microsoft Office Word Document MSWordDoc Word.Document.8

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