Changing face of poverty in Alabama - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Changing face of poverty in Alabama

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According to U.S. Census data, Alabama is the seventh poorest state in the country. Nearly one million of our neighbors live below the poverty line. And, to make matters worse, the face of poverty includes all demographics.

Poverty isn't just confined to inner cities and the homeless, it's right in our own backyard. It could be a friend, a family member, someone living next door, who at first glance, appears to be just fine.

But, the reality is, they're hanging on by a thread, right at or below the poverty line.

Many of these people never thought a day would come when they would find themselves in this position.

"You don't think it's going to happen to you, you think it's going to happen to somebody else," says Kelly Reeves. 

Reeves is a single mother and college graduate who was laid off from a full time job two years ago. Shortly after, she lost her health insurance and found herself depending on the kindness of friends. 

"I grew up in a comfortable lifestyle and I'm thinking how did I get in this situation," says Reeves.

Reeves is one of many in Alabama who make up the changing face of poverty. She's encountered others seeking assistance who don't fit the stereotype either

"It may just look like a business man or woman walking down the street, and you're thinking, wow it's not just me. Things have changed."

Kristina Scott is executive director of Alabama Possible, a non-profit organization that works to reduce systemic poverty in Alabama.

She says poverty in Alabama has traditionally been urban and rural, but now it's increasingly suburban.  "I would say it's a changing face of poverty, and we're having a changing understanding," says Scott. "It could be your cousin, an uncle who has lost a job, it could be our neighbor who has hit on hard times."

More people who identify with the middle class now are in need. 

 "It challenges our preconceptions, it also is more challenging for us to have impactful poverty solutions when poverty becomes more diverse," says Scott.

 Hettie Wagner sees it all as a social worker in Montevallo.

She knows the factors changing the face of the poor. 

Wagner says, "Expenses are more than they used to be. It costs more for health insurance, it costs more for housing, it costs more for food. But the wages don't seem to have gone up."

Shelby County is the wealthiest county in Alabama. Wagner says pride often stands in the way of help. 

"We want to help folks that are in those situations. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect."

 Kelly Reeves echos that statement. 

"It's a reality now. It's not that you should be embarrassed about it. There's a lot of community resources out there that you would not even imagine," says Reeves. "My hope, is to get out of this hole fast."


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