1 in 3 Illinoisans lives in or near poverty level: report - FOX 35 News Orlando

1 in 3 Illinoisans lives in or near poverty level: report

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

A staggering one out of three Illinoisans today lives in or near poverty — the peak of a continued climb over three decades, a new study finds.

It means one in five Illinois children are living in poverty, according to the study released Wednesday by the Social IMPACT Research Center of Chicago's Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights.

The forces behind this rising poverty in a post-recession economy go beyond unemployment, according to the study, which traces it also to an inadequate living wage and lack of access to education, housing, health care and assets.

"Illinois' 33%: Report on Illinois Poverty," is based on 2011 U.S. Census Bureau data. It declares a crisis sparing no community in Illinois, and only worsening under budget cuts to government programs and policies that alleviate poverty.

Rodney Dawkins, 46, of Lake View, is among the 33 percent.

With a high school diploma — which the study says holds little value today in wage-earning potential — Dawkins worked minimum-wage jobs all of his life, before a job loss at age 40 left him homeless.

"I lived at SROs, stayed with friends, slept in the bus or the park," he said. "I couldn't find work or afford a place."

He finally connected with an employment training program, got a restaurant job, and last year, moved into subsidized housing. But he still lives below poverty.

"I work maybe 25 hours a week, and manage my money the best way I can," he said. "Rent comes first, then lights and cellphone. But now that my CTA bus card just went up, I'm really going to have to budget my money to make it through."

The 33 percent figure is up from 25 percent of Illinoisans who lived in or near poverty in 2000. In 1990, it was 27 percent; in 1980, 26 percent.

"We wanted to get a handle on how people are recovering post-recession and to understand how things like our state's budget crisis are filtering down into communities," said report author Amy Rynell, director of the research center.

"What we learned was extraordinarily disturbing," Rynell said.

The study found that almost half of Chicago's population is living in or near poverty.

In suburban Cook and Kane counties, it's nearly a third; in DuPage, McHenry and Will counties, one out of five people, and in Lake County, one out of four.

Statewide, 31 percent of the African-American population lives in poverty, along with 22.6 percent of Latinos; 12 percent of Asians, and 11 percent of whites.

Of the state's households headed by single women, 34.3 percent live in poverty; as do 8.2 percent of senior citizens, and 20.7 percent of disabled people.

The pervasiveness makes poverty one of the most pressing social issues facing Illinois and the nation, according to the study. It offers recommendations from increasing minimum wage and the affordable housing stock to addressing issues of education, health and nutrition and financial traps intrinsic to poverty.

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