poverty

MoBikeFed / Flickr - CC

Any hopes Gov. Jay Nixon may have about patching things up with Missouri’s top public defender will have to be put on hold for a while longer.

Budget tensions came to a head last week when Michael Barrett, director of the state’s public defender’s office, assigned the governor to defend an assault case in Cole County, Missouri.

KIDS COUNT/aecf.org

Both Kansas and Missouri stayed in the middle tier of states in the new KIDS COUNT survey released Tuesday, but Kansas had the third-largest drop in child well-being ratings in the nation.

Overall, Kansas fell from 15th place last year to 19th.  Missouri slipped from 26th to 28th. 

Health scores improved for Missouri kids but slid 11 places for Kansas. 

Missouri came up three positions on economic well-being, Kansas held steady at No. 9.

Since becoming a Kansas City, Missouri police officer in the 1950s, Alvin Brooks has spent a lifetime working to reduce crime and injustice in his city. Even as we look back at all he’s already done, we ask the equal rights activist what Kansas City still needs to do.

On Tuesday, Alvin Brooks was awarded at lifetime achievement award from the South Kansas City Alliance. He is also this year's recipient of the Truman Public Service Award.

Feeding America

A new study of food insecurity finds some familiar patterns in Kansas. But there are also a few surprises.

Every year when the County Health Rankings are released, they show southeast Kansas and Wyandotte County as having persistent problems with lower average incomes and higher poverty levels. So it should come as no surprise that those same places have a high degree of food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of reliable access to adequate food.

Courtesy Iola Unified School District 257

Delivering meals to low-income people is a long-standing way to improve nutrition, but a project in Iola Unified School District 257 will bring the whole diner.

Kathy Koehn, nutrition and wellness coordinator at USD 257, said students taking vocational classes in the district are working to remodel an older school bus as a “traveling bistro” where children who may not have access to healthy food during the summer can get lunch.

Buying in bulk and taking advantage of sales are great ways to save money on basic household goods, like toilet paper. But those savings are out of reach for many families who need them the most. We find out why poor people are paying more for toilet paper…and just about everything else.

Guest:

Millions of Americans are evicted every year because they can’t make the rent. For poor families already struggling with finances, the repercussions of being evicted can be crushing.

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Andrea Tudhope / / KCUR 89.3

Last November, for the first time, Kansas City child care workers spoke out about their low wages, as they officially joined fast food and other low wage workers in the Fight for 15, a movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

One worker involved in the movement is 30-year-old Kimmy DeVries. She works for a local Head Start program, where she and other care providers follow a relatively rigorous care and education program.

A superintendent on the other side of the state has earned the national spotlight for figuring out "how to make school work for poor kids" (as The Washington Post puts it). What's the secret, and could it translate to Kansas City?

Guest:

In the Landry Park series for teen readers, local author Bethany Hagen pictures the year 2300. From class warfare to energy sustainability issues, it's a dark vision informed by the author's own experience growing up in Kansas City.

Guests:

  • Bethany Hagen, author, Landry Park and Jubilee Manor
Kyle Palmer / KCUR 89.3

Volunteers began gathering early Monday morning at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas. 

They braved icy roads and single-digit temperatures but none doubted the reason they were there. 

"This is one of the biggest celebrations of the year," said Frank Lavender, a lead organizer for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Motorcade/March for Hunger. "It gives us the opportunity to make the community aware of the all the people who need food. We use this day to get the word out."

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr-CC

Catholic Charities of Northeastern Kansas is serving significantly more residents at its food pantries than in previous years.

The organization served nearly 175,000 individuals in need of food over the last 12 months. That's a 25 percent increase over the previous year.

"The economy has picked up, but a lot of people who have gotten jobs are working jobs that (pay) low wages," says Kim Brabits, the organization's vice president of program operations. "Although they're no longer unemployed, they're still (sometimes) living below 200 percent of the poverty level."

Andy Marso/KHI News

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday convened a new Governor’s Social Services Policy Council for the first time Wednesday in the luxury suites area at Sporting Park, the Kansas City, Kansas, home of the Sporting Kansas City soccer team.

At the end of the hourlong meeting, the council decided to focus on obtaining data about criminal recidivism and the breakdown of the family structure.

Salvation Army USA West / Flickr-CC

The Salvation Army's Olathe food pantry is facing a severe food shortage due to rising demand.

Since 2012, demand for food has climbed 72 percent at the Olathe location. Officials say that it could be because of a sharp rise in poverty levels in Johnson County, Kansas since 2000. 

Class issues can be all over the headlines, even when the word 'class' never appears. So says Kansas writer Sarah Smarsh. A quick breakdown of recent headlines through the lens of class in Kansas.

Guest:

United Community Services of Johnson County

Johnson County social service providers should target more services to residents who don’t have children, including low-income couples and at-risk young adults, according to a nonprofit that supports social service agencies in the county.

At its annual Human Service Summit Tuesday, officials of United Community Services of Johnson County (UCS) said public assistance programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families skew towards families with young children.

Eleanor Klibanoff / KCUR

After years spent battling landlords and management, residents of a Kansas City, Kansas public housing complex await promised vouchers for housing of their choice. What will happen when, and if, they get off that steep hill?

Pawel Loj/Flickr -- CC

What do you do when you're not making enough money to really make ends meet — but you're making too much to qualify for assistance? We invite the director of programs at Amethyst Place to discuss her perspective on this earnings gap and how it affects Kansas and Missouri residents.

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Eleanor Klibanoff / KCUR

Terrie Van Zandt-Travis had only been a preschool teacher for three weeks when one of her more challenging students scampered away right after lunch. She looked around the classroom, and what she saw stopped her in her tracks. 

"He was face down in the trash can," she said. "We had peaches that day and there was a peach between every single finger. He was pulling them out of the trash can and jamming them into his pants."

She says she'll never forget this 4-year-old's face when he told her, "I'm taking food home for me and my brothers." 

www.woodsoncounty.net

A cluster of counties in southeast Kansas are among the least healthy in the state, according to new rankings released Wednesday.

Four of the five state’s unhealthiest counties — Woodson, Cherokee, Greenwood and Labette — are in southeast Kansas. Several other counties in the region rank among the bottom 10.

But the director of an initiative launched in 2011 to address the underlying causes of the region’s health and economic problems said progress is being made.

Bills that would further tighten eligibility for public assistance programs will be among the first that Kansas lawmakers consider this week when they return to the Capitol from a short mid-session break.

The bills — House Bill 2381 — and Senate Bill 256 ­— would write into state law several controversial administrative changes made in recent years as part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to move people from welfare to work.

A couple of weeks before the election, the Kansas Department for Children and Families issued a press release that poverty in the state fell almost two and a half percent under Gov. Sam Brownback.

Brownback wasted no time incorporating those figures into the narrative of his success as governor.

“And just yesterday, poverty rates going down in the state of Kansas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” said Brownback at the gubernatorial debate in Wichita. “We are moving in the right direction and getting things done."

But the poverty rate information was wrong.

Poverty is a political issue in Kansas.

Gov. Sam Brownback campaigned in 2010 on a platform that included as one of its main goals reducing childhood poverty.  And since taking office, he has aggressively pursued that goal. But he’s done it his way.

Kevin Anderson / Wikimedia Commons

When you think of poverty, you might picture homeless people in the heart of the city or lines at the City Union Mission, but the inner city isn’t the only place where people have fallen on hard times.

On Wedensday's Up to Date, we take a look the suburbs, a place where poverty rates have been climbing for years. We examine what steps local governments can take to help the growing number of people who live in suburban poverty and find out what has been pushing this trend.

Guest:

Poverty in suburban Johnson County doesn't look like it does in urban Kansas City, Kan., or rural parts of the state. 

And that makes it harder to address a growing problem in a part of the metro seen as affluent, says County Manager Hannes Zacharias.

Courtesy of Julie Levin.

Julie Levin has worked with Legal Aid of Western Missouri since 1977.

In that time, she's had some monumental cases, from a suit against the Kansas City Housing Authority in 1989 that changed the face of public housing, to a case on behalf of a client who lost her job while on maternity leave. That last case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton / Flickr -- Creative Commons

In 1989 Michael Katz wrote the first edition of The Undeserving Poor and changed the way we talk about and understand poverty. He directly addressed the question of who is responsible for the victims of poverty.

His recently revised second edition came out last month, numerous aspects of poverty have completely changed, while others have persisted and some have even expanded over the last two decades.

On Wednesday's Central Standard, we talk with Michael Katz about his work and some of the deepest challenges regarding poverty.

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Pam Morris/ Flickr-CC

If you saw a school bus stop to pick up children at a motel, what would you think? One Kansas City man who saw just that decided to help.

World Bank Photo Collection / Flickr -- Creative Commons

Micro-loans are becoming something of a trend now. Anyone can loan as little as $25 to $50 to someone across the globe they've never met. Bob Harris, a man who saw poverty in the world and pledged to himself to do something about it. 


Oftentimes these loans go to small businessman and businesswomen who need the money to get started or finish a project.  For instance, an individual may need a small loan to open up a new shop, or buy capital for a business they want to start, but they simply don't have the money.

A task force looking for ways to reduce childhood poverty in Kansas wrapped up a series of meetings Monday. The governor appointed group discussed three so-called "pathways out of poverty," which include ways to improve education, get more Kansans working and strengthen families.

The committee was told that in 2011 around 19 percent of Kansas kids lived in poverty, and they’re hoping that focusing on some key areas can reduce that.

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